Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin taboo: Russian President announces divorce after 30-year marriage

Wife says President is 'completely overloaded with work'


In an awkward joint interview on state television, given after a rare public outing together, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila announced that they have separated.

The couple were interviewed by Russian state television at the Bolshoi Theatre, and after answering several questions about how they enjoyed the ballet they had just seen, the interviewer asked a surprise question: "You are so rarely seen together and there are rumours that you are no longer together. Is that true?"

"Yes, it is," answered Mr Putin, after a short pause. He added that his work as President meant he was hardly ever at home.

"I agree with the words of Vladimir Vladimirovich, and it was a joint decision," said Ms Putina, using the formal patronymic version of Mr Putin's name that is usually reserved for strangers or social superiors. Mr Putin referred to her in the same way, calling her "Lyudmila Alexandrovna".

That Mr Putin and his wife no longer live together came as no surprise to Moscow political circles, where rumours of their separation have been rife for years, but the public announcement was unexpected.

Mr Putin's private life has long been a taboo subject for Russian journalists and there is no doubt that the question was planted, rather than asked on the reporter's own initiative.

"Our marriage is over," said Ms Putina. "Vladimir Vladimirovich is completely overloaded with work, our children have grown up, each one of us has our own life… We almost never see each other."

"I'm scared to say the word, but is it a divorce?" asked the interviewer. Ms Putina said it was a "civilised divorce", though it is unclear if they have divorced on paper.

Ms Putina is a former Aeroflot air hostess, and married Mr Putin in 1983, shortly before he was posted to East Germany with the KGB. In recent years, the pair have been seen together more and more rarely. State television has aired occasional choreographed outings that the couple undertook in order to prove that they were still together, but they usually had the opposite effect, as the obvious awkwardness between them only prompted further speculation.

There has been repeated speculation that Mr Putin was engaged in an affair with the former gymnast Alina Kabayeva, who is now an MP for the pro-Putin United Russia party.

The Kremlin has always denied the rumours, but there was immediate speculation that the announcement might be the first step towards Mr Putin presenting a new wife or partner to the public. Ms Kabaeva turned 30 last month and was the subject of an hour-long documentary on Russia's Channel One recently, in which she said she did not have any children but would like to have them.

A Moscow newspaper owned by Alexander Lebedev, the current financial backer of The Independent, published a story in 2008 stating that Mr Putin had divorced and planned to marry gymnast Alina Kabayeva. Mr Putin vigorously denied the story, hitting out at journalists who "prowl into others' lives" with "snotty noses and erotic fantasies". The newspaper was closed down shortly afterwards.

The Putins said that they remain "close" to each other and Ms Putina thanked her former husband for his "support" of her and their two daughters, who are both in their late 20s. Their girls are meticulously shielded from the public limelight, though there are frequent rumours that both live abroad. But Mr Putin denied this, saying that both of them live in Russia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Managing Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Affiliates & Partnerships

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This multi-award winning foreig...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor