Putin's reclusive wife releases film series on happy families

Amid rumours of separation, the wife of Russia's PM offers her tips
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Russians have been given advice on family values and marriage counselling this week from an unlikely source, the reclusive wife of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Lyudmila Putina, who has been married to Russia's macho leader for more than a quarter of a century, launched a collection of films entitled Long and happy. Everything about Men, Women and Family". At a presentation lon Thursday at a Moscow bookshop, Ms Putina unveiled the discs, a six-part series that features conversations between a well-known Russian television host and a family psychologist. The disks contain segments with titles such as Husband and wife, Happiness is not in money, You can't leave your family and Brain gymnastics.

"People have problems, have had problems and will have problems," Ms Putina said at the launch. "But with the help of these discs, and with the help of any psychotherapists, a person can learn how to solve these problems easily."

Ms Putina did not reveal whether the Putin couple had used the services of psychologists to resolve such differences. The family life of the Putins is shrouded in a veil of almost absolute secrecy. State-controlled Russian media is happy to show Mr Putin peeling his shirt off for macho holiday snaps, shooting tigers, and performing a variety of other stunts, but follow an unwritten rule that the Prime Minister's private life is absolutely off limits.

But this has not stopped gossip from spreading in Moscow circles, and it is considered an open secret that Mr Putin and his wife are estranged, which means that Ms Putina's advice to other couples in solving marital problems may seem somewhat bizarre. Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of Mr Putin's successor as President, Dmitry Medvedev, has established a relatively high-profile presence, but Ms Putina is rarely shown at her husband's side.

Last year, a Moscow newspaper published a story claiming that Mr Putin was having a romance with the former Olympic gymnast and present Russian MP Alina Kabayeva, voted by one magazine to be the sexiest woman in Russia, and was even planning a marriage to her.

Mr Putin furiously denied the allegations, and accused journalists of dipping their "snotty noses" into his life and concocting "erotic fantasies". The newspaper that published the allegations, which was owned by Alexander Lebedev, owner of the London Evening Standard, was closed soon after.

Further conjecture that all might not be well in the House of Putin came when the management of the Abba tribute band Bjorn Again claimed that the group was flown into Russia in January for a secret concert organised by the Kremlin, where Mr Putin was seen entertaining a young woman wearing a long cream dress. Mr Putin's spokesman denied that the concert had even happened.

The publicity ban extends to the two Putin daughters, both in their early 20s, and the Russian media knows to stay well away from stories about them.

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