May 19, 2022, 12:15

    UK sanctions Putin’s ex-gymnast ‘lover’ in strike on Russian President’s ‘shady cabal’

    UK sanctions Putin’s ex-gymnast ‘lover’ in strike on Russian President’s ‘shady cabal’

    Britain today sanctioned Vladimir Putin’s rumoured lover in a wave of new strikes against the Russian leader’s “shady cabal”.

    Alina Kabaeva, a retired Olympic rhythmic gymnast said to have had multiple children by the President, was branded part of Putin’s “wallet” who've amassed wealth worth billions to prop up the President.

    Putin’s ex-wife and three cousins were also among 12 alleged "proxies" of the President hit with new asset freezes and travel bans over the Ukraine war.

    A UK official said: “These are people who deliberately lurk in the shadows to help Putin hide away his personal wealth.”

    The Foreign Office said a “cabal” of the President’s family and friends fund Putin’s lifestyle despite his modest official assets – including a St Petersburg flat, two Soviet-era cars from the 1950s, a trailer, and a small garage.

    A UK official said Putin “has amassed a huge fortune” unofficially including a £566m yacht and the £1bn ‘Putin’s Palace’ mansion on the Black Sea coast.

    The Foreign Office said Ms Kabaeva is “rumoured to be the current partner of Putin” and “it is reported that he has tried to reduce her visibility since the invasion began.

    Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Russian gymnast Alina Kabayeva (centre) in 2004

    AFP via Getty Images)

    “For example, a couple of weeks after the invasion, the National Media Group website was updated to remove her name, along with any reference to the Board of Directors.”

    Unconfirmed reports suggest the 2004 Athens gold medallist, 39, has been engaged to the Russian leader and has had his children.

    A UK official said the National Media Group, where she chairs the board, leads “quite frankly some of the worst outlets for propaganda in Russia at the moment”.

    The official added she was a "very significant figure" in sanctioned Bank Rossiya, which owns more than a third of National Media Group, showing a “clear linkage between her and Putin”.

    Ms Kabaeva’s gran Anna Zatseplina – who reportedly received a luxury Moscow flat from sanctioned oligarch Gennady Timchenko – was also sanctioned by the UK today.

    And so was Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila Ocheretnaya – who was First Lady of the Russian Federation before their divorce in 2014.

    Putin and his ex-wife Lyudmila when they were married back in 2012

    RIA-NOVOSTI/AFP via Getty Images)

    The Foreign Office said Putin's ex-wife “has benefited from preferential business relationships with state-owned entities and exhibited significant unexplained wealth.

    “Ocheretnaya is a close associate of Putin and obtains a financial or material benefit from this association.”

    A UK official said Putin's first cousin once removed, Mikhail Shelomov, has one publicly listed job with an $8,500 salary yet is thought to have acquired assets worth nearly $600m. He is "widely considered to be a probable proxy for Putin", a UK official said.

    Other family members sanctioned were Putin's cousin and transport firm director Igor Putin, Igor Putin's son Roman who is the director of his own firm called Putin Consulting, and reported relative and SOGAZ Insurance deputy board chairman Mikhail Putin.

    Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: "We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin's luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle.

    Former gymnast, politician and media manager Alina Kabaeva talks to journalists in 2018

    Getty Images)

    “We will keep going with sanctions on all those aiding and abetting Putin's aggression until Ukraine prevails."

    It came after Ms Truss urged G7 foreign ministers, meeting in Germany, to maintain sanctions against Russia until it has fully withdrawn from Ukraine.

    The sanctions list has grown to more than 1,000 individuals and 100 entities.

    A UK official defended the pace of sanctioning the new round of cronies, saying they “have been trying to hide their light under a bushel for many years” and “you have to take time to build your cases against them”.

    The official also said sanctions were starting to bite, with Russia suffering a "huge crash" and the "worst recession since the end of the Cold War”, with several weapons manufacturers suspending production.

    The official warned the end of reliance on Russia's energy "has to be a one-way street" – to "remove that lever of influence, frankly, for good”. Britain is set to phase out Russian oil imports by the end of this year but gas imports could take longer.

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