Putin Aide Denies Divorce Is Driven by a Relationship

Share with others:

Print Email Read Later

MOSCOW -- A spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin took the unusual step on Friday of announcing publicly that Mr. Putin is not in a romantic relationship, attempting to quiet speculation that he is divorcing his wife of 29 years because he wants to remarry.

Talk of another woman in Mr. Putin's life is "rumors and gossip," Dmitry S. Peskov said in an interview broadcast on the Echo of Moscow radio station.

"Even an inexpert eye can take a look at Mr. Putin's work schedule and understand," Mr. Peskov continued. "His life, perhaps unfortunately, has nothing to do with family relationships, but only with the requirements, with the responsibility, that he bears as the head of state."

Though he mentioned no names, Mr. Peskov was in part addressing persistent rumors that Mr. Putin is involved with an Olympic gold medalist in rhythmic gymnastics and that the two have a child.

Mr. Putin and his wife, Lyudmilla, told a camera crew Thursday night that they were splitting up, bringing an end to a long effort to cover the clear rift between them.

Mrs. Putin has been conspicuously absent from state events for years, leaving the president to cut a solitary, even lonely, figure.

Most Russians on Friday seemed to approve of the step; some said it was the most honest way of dealing with Mrs. Putin, while others said it was a step toward more transparent government.

"The president and his wife acted like real people," said Viktor Loshak, a popular Russian journalist, in a radio interview with the Kommersant FM radio station. Many were relieved that the president acted this way, he added "and did not continue to lead a double life in order to fulfill a sham protocol."

In general, Russians are not scandalized by divorce. The Federal State Statistics Service recorded about 670,000 divorces in Russia in 2011, compared with 877,000 divorces and annulments in the United States that year.

Patriarch Kirill I, a close ally of Mr. Putin's, has criticized divorce publicly in the past, but did not release a statement on Friday.

Vsevolod Chaplin, an archpriest and spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, said in an interview with the PublicPost news site that while church marriages could not end in divorce, Mr. Putin's decision to end his civil marriage was "between him and his spouse."

Muscovites seemed to take the news in stride; many said they suspected that Mr. Putin and his wife had already separated.

Some blamed Mrs. Putin for being too camera-shy for the wife of a president, and others said they expected Mr. Putin to focus his affections on someone new and perhaps younger.

"One must be honest toward a woman," said Dmitri, 83, wearing bluejeans and a lilac shirt.

"The church gave the right to divorce to the Russian czars, so there's no problem there," he added. "It's a normal domestic issue."

Anna Tikhomirova contributed reporting.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here