Vladimir Putin’s alleged mistress has dramatically reappeared with a “new look” following rumours she had been hiding in a Swiss bolthole or a Siberian nuclear bunker.
Olympic gold-medal winning Alina Kabaeva, 38, surfaced at a junior rhythmic gymnastics rehearsal in Moscow.
Pictures evidently showed her at the city’s VTB Arena this week ahead of the annual Alina Festival charitable event scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday April 22.
They immediately sparked speculation that she had used the same cosmetic surgeon as Putin amid claims of botox and fillers.
Russian Cosmopolitan said “something has really changed in Kabaeva’s face”, adding that “the legendary athlete was noticeably prettier”.
Avoiding linking her to Putin, it said of a woman widely believed to be Russia ’s unofficial first lady: “Alina Kabaeva is one of the most mysterious and secretive women in our country.
“The gymnast almost never appears in public, does not [appear in] social networks, and it is not possible to accidentally see her on the street or in shopping centres.”
A TV version of Kabaeva’s festival will be broadcast on the eve of Russia’s 9 May Victory Day commemoration marking the end of the Second World War.
This is seen as the day when Putin will seek to declare some kind of victory in Ukraine, possibly claiming he has seized the entire Donbas for Russia.
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Unlike two of Putin’s adult daughters – Maria and Katerina – media mogul Kabaeva, who controls a significant segment of the pro-Kremlin Moscow media, has avoided Western sanctions.
Yet jailed Putin foe Alexei Navalny has demanded sanctions against her.
He singled out Kabaeva’s National Media Group arguing that it was likely owned by Putin – who will be 70 this year – personally.
Her salary here has been estimated at almost £8 million a year, compared with the average annual figure of £5,600.
He called for her as a Putin propagandist to be treated as a “war criminal”.
Kabaeva has kept a low profile in the Ukraine war – but her media has been vocal in cheerleading for Putin.
Earlier, she ignored the lurch towards war when she was caught on video in December dancing in Moscow, her last public appearance before this week.
There has been speculation that she and her supposed secret young family with Putin have been hiding from the war either in Switzerland or in one of several high-grade bunkers in the Urals, Arctic or Siberia.
A petition demanding she was thrown out by the Swiss authorities garnered 75,000 signatures, demanding that “it’s time you reunite Eva Braun with her Führer”.
Rumours first linked her romantically to Putin as long ago as 2008 when she was a pro-Kremlin MP.
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The newspaper printing the story was rapidly closed down.
Kabaeva is on record as saying she had met a man who "I love very much”, gushing: "Sometimes you feel so happy that you even feel scared."
In 2001 Kabaeva was temporarily banned from competing in rhythmic gymnastics after failing a doping test.
A year earlier she had won gold at the 2000 summer Olympics.
Once regarded as Russia’s most eligible woman, her only other suitor has been a married Georgian policeman, according to media reports.
This relationship petered out in 2005 amid complaints of tabloid intrusion into her life.
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