The latest round of US sanctions against Russia has once again drawn attention to the family life of Russian President Vladimir Putin, revealing two new goals: Catherine and Maria, his eldest daughters.
Despite Putin’s dominance in Russian politics, he rarely talks about his family and knows little about his personal life and children.
Catherine and Maria have never publicly confirmed that the Russian leader is their father. Putin’s marriage to their mother, Lyudmila, who was once a member of the crew of the national airline Aeroflot, ended in divorce in 2013.
The United States says 35-year-old Ekaterina Tikhonova is a technical manager whose work is supported by the Russian government and its defense industry. Her 36-year-old sister, Maria Vorontsova, runs government-funded programs that have received billions of dollars from the Kremlin for genetic research and are personally controlled by Putin.
A senior U.S. official said Washington believed “Putin’s assets are hidden from family members.”
According to the Kremlin’s website, Maria was born in 1985, and Catherine a year after the family moved to Dresden, then to East Germany, where Putin was a KGB spy.
Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, co-authors of “Who is Mr. Putin?”, Note in their 2015 biography of the Russian president that “personal information for such an outstanding public figure is extremely scarce. For example, his wife, daughters and other family members are clearly not publicly available. “
Catherine is best known – at least on YouTube – as an acrobatic rock and roll dancer, where the video shows her performing grueling procedures, including coups and somersaults at major international competitions.
But a 2015 Reuters investigation put her in a completely different light, highlighting her connections and influence among Moscow’s elite.
The report says that Ekaterina, who is now deputy director of the Institute of Mathematical Research of Complex Systems at Moscow State University, called herself the “wife” of Kirill Shamalov, the son of Nikolai Shamalov, a longtime friend of Putin. also a shareholder of the bank “Russia”. The report estimates the couple’s corporate holdings value at about $ 2 billion, in addition to other assets and assets. Cyril is already under sanctions.
Meanwhile, Maria studied biology at St. Petersburg University and medicine at Moscow State University and is actively involved in genetic research.
Russian and Western media reports that she married a Dutch businessman and lived in the Netherlands for some time.
Reuters reports that while Maria specialized in the endocrine system, her husband worked for Gazprombank, a lender with strong ties to the Kremlin elite. There were no immediate estimates of their assets and possessions, and Leonid Volkov, the chief strategist of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said the marriage was over.
Navalny has long worked to expose Putin’s wealth, and Volkov said the latest sanctions are welcome.
“This is a very important symbolic step,” he said, given the seriousness of the situation in Ukraine. “This is a very important symbolic step, which means that we are following Putin personally, we understand how great his personal guilt is at the beginning of this bloody war.”
The amount of Putin’s wealth is a sensitive issue in Russia.
Last year, the Kremlin denied that it owned a posh palace on the Black Sea, according to Navalny in a video that went viral on YouTube.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in February that the sanctions included “absurd allegations” about some of Putin’s assets.
“Apart from those he declared, the president has none,” Peskov said.
During a press conference in 2019, Putin declined to directly answer a question about his daughters ’growing business influence and their ties to the government. He called Vorontsova and Tikhonova “women”, never recognizing them as their children.
“I am proud of them. They continue to study and work, ”Putin told a news conference several years ago.
“They are not engaged in any business activities and are not engaged in politics. They are not trying to get anywhere, ”he added.
In an interview in 2020, Putin said he did not want to share any information about his family because of “security concerns.”
He did show that he has grandchildren, but did not say how many.
“I have grandchildren, I’m happy. They are very kind, so cute. I really enjoy spending time with them. ”
Navalny’s group also calls for sanctions against former gymnast and parliamentarian Alina Kabayeva, who they say is Putin’s second wife and the mother of his two younger children. She also heads the National Media Group, Russia’s largest media group.