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Putin to do a Sarkozy?

The Moscow rumour mill is buzzing after a newspaper report that Vladimir Putin has divorced his wife of 25 years and will marry young gymnast-turned-politician Alina Kabayeva. Fred Weir tells us more.

world Updated: Apr 18, 2008 00:35 IST
Fred Weir

The Moscow rumour mill is buzzing after a newspaper report that Vladimir Putin has divorced his wife of 25 years and will marry young gymnast-turned-politician Alina Kabayeva.

The report, which appeared in Moskovsky Correspondent, cited a source inside a St Petersburg wedding planning agency, as saying that Putin, 55, secretly divorced his wife, Lyudmilla, two months ago and intends to marry Kabayeva in June.

The Sarko syndrome
Nicolas Sarkozy: The French President, 53, married 41-year-old former supermodel Carla Bruni this year.
Helmut Kohl: The 78-year-old
Former German chancellor is set to marry economist Maike Richter, 43.
Salman Rushdie: At 56, he married model Padma Lakshmi, then 32, in 2004.

Kabayeva, 25, born to Muslim father in Uzbekistan, is one of Russia’s best known athletes who posed for the Russian edition of Playboy.

Last December she was elected to the State Duma as a deputy for the United Russia Party. She won the gymnastics gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics . But she was stripped of her medals won at the 2001 World Championships after testing positive for diuretics.

The rumour has set Russia’s blogosphere ablaze. Some commentators say it’s natural for Russia’s most powerful man to have a young and beautiful wife. "If Sarkozy can marry a young celebrity, why not Putin?" argued one blogger.

Putin steps down as president on May 7. Lyudmilla Putina, a 50-year old former airline stewardess and her two adult daughters have rarely been seen in public through Putin’s eight years in the Kremlin.