Northern Light

Putin’s not so private life

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has denied rumours that he divorced his
wife Lyudmila and married the 24 year old former Olympic champion of gymnastics Alina Kabayeva.

Kabayeva is a member of Putin’s party United Russia and was elected to parliament last year.

The newspaper that published this juicy piece has been closed down for ”pure financial reasons” and the editor-in-chief has resigned.

At a press conference with Italy’s newly elected prime minister Silvio Berlusconi Putin answered a staged question by a Russian journalist touching upon the sensitive matter. There is every reason to believe that this was done to prevent more aggressive and intrusive questions from Italian reporters. Usually questions by Russian reporters are coordinated with the Kremlin’s press office.

Among other things Putin said:

”Society has the right to know how public figures live. But even in this case there is a limit: private life, which no one has the right to trepass. I have always disliked whose who, with their infected noses and erotic fantasies, break into other people’s private affairs.”

Well, this is exactly what Putin did back in the spring of 1999. As head of the security service FSB Putin was behind the broadcasting of a video on Russian state television showing prosecutor general Yuri Skuratov having sex with two prostitutes. This was done in order to discredit Skuratov who was leading an investigation into finanicial embezzlement and corruption by president Boris Yeltsin’s closest relatives and advisors. Skuratov was forced to leave his office and five months later Putin was named prime minister and annoited to take over the presidency after Yeltsin.

So Putin’s comment about respecting the private life of public figures is pure b….

How about the rumours surrounding Putin’s private life?

From a well informed source I heard about Putin’s alleged mistress a few months ago. She was said to be a former Olympic champion who had joined Putin’s party United Russia and was playing an important political role behind the scenes.

Sounds like Kabayeva.

Maybe the rumours about Putin’s divorce and new marriage are untrue, but stories about Putin’s adultery has been circulating for a long time.

Mark Ames, who has covered Russian politics for years, sees a conspiracy behind the publication of the intimate news concering the president’s private life.

He makes the point that the owner of the paper, Alexander Lebedev, is a former KGB-officer and member of parliament with close ties to the liberal camp in the Kremlin. Lebedev didn’t know about the story ahead of publication and Mark Ames suggests that the information was given to the paper by hard liners in the Kremlin in order to discredit Lebedev in the eyes of Putin. He writes:

”What’s more curious is why, in a country where information is hard to come by and wars over assets and power are often fought in the press, Lebedev’s lesser-known Moskovsky Korrespondent would publish such a scurrilous, not to mention dangerous, article about his buddy Vlad. Particularly in a country where The Leader’s private life is not open to scandal and mud-dragging.

Lebedev said he can’t figure that one out either. In an interview yesterday with the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy and on his personal LiveJournal blog, Lebedev claimed ignorance of the Putin-Kabaeva marriage article in his own paper, saying he found out about it four days after its publication: “I just returned from a fishing trip [on April 15],” Lebedev wrote, “where the fruits of civilization, including telephone communications, are lacking: nature, nature, and more nature. That’s why I just learned about the famous article…”

Lebedev distanced himself from the story, saying that it was most likely bullshit (“newspaper duck” in Russian), but he was giving his journalists the chance to either confirm its veracity, or retract it. Kabaeva has already denied it, and the alleged source, the director of a party-planning agency in St. Petersburg which the article claimed was participating in a “tender” to manage a Putin-Kabaeva wedding ceremony in June, also issued a denial.

Now the conspiracy theory, which involves a high-stakes battle between two of Russia’s most powerful warring factions: On one side, the so-called “liberals” headed by president-elect Dmitry Medvedev (Putin’s boy), and backed by the prosecutor’s office and the 40,000-armed-man-strong Anti-Narcotics Committee; on the other, the so-called “FSB” clan made up of the successor to the KGB as well as a rival prosecuting government organ, the Investigation Committee.
Last November, the FSB and the Investigation Committee arrested a powerful deputy finance minister allied with the “liberal” faction on charges of massive embezzlement. It was like a shot across the liberals’ bow by the FSB, who feared Putin was on the verge of choosing a liberal as his successor. Well, he did anyway. Medvedev. But the arrested deputy finance minister, Sergei Storchak, is still rotting in prison, proof that the war liberal-FSB is still going strong.
Storchak is not only on the liberal side of the war, he also has a strong connection to Moskovsky Korrespondent owner and oligarch Lebedev. Lebedev, citing his 30-year-long friendship with Storchak, offered in an open letter to publish Storchak’s letters from prison in his Moskovsky Korrespondent. A few weeks ago, the first of Storchak’s missives ran.

Which leads us back to the seemingly bunk Putin rumor. It looks more and more likely that someone from the FSB planted it knowing it would make Lebedev and his paper look foolish. That would be a clear retaliation for Lebedev’s attempts to exonerate Storchak, the FSB’s most valuable captured chess piece in its battle against Putin and the liberals he’s propped up. The FSB’s message is simple: If you fuck with us, we’ll fuck with you, your paper, and Putin—in more ways than you know.”

On the arrest of deputy finance minister Sergei Storchak in November of 2007 as part of the struggle for Putin’s successor:

This may be true: I have heard from a well informed source that Putin was planning to suggest the liberal minister of finance Aleksei Kudrin as his candidate for president. The arrest of Kudrin’s deputy foiled this plan, and so Dmitri Medvedev was chosen as the compromise figure.