Russia's first couple makes 'joint decision' to divorce

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MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and his long-suffering wife, Lyudmila, are ending their nearly 30-year marriage, they announced on state television Thursday in a tone of mutual indifference.

"We practically never saw each other," Mr. Putin told a reporter from the Rossiya 24 network, as he and his soon-to-be-ex-wife departed a Kremlin ballet performance. "To each his own life."

Russia's first couple gave little explanation of why they chose to end the marriage now, other than the president's assertion that "it was our joint decision."

Ms. Putina, 55, who met her then-KGB agent husband while working as an Aeroflot flight attendant, said only that she didn't like the publicity or air travel involved in her role as Russia's first lady.

The apparently staged announcement in a Kremlin reception room was a stunning departure for the 60-year-old president, who has so painstakingly kept his personal life out of the public eye that not a single photograph of his two adult daughters is known to have appeared in Russian media.

Those curious about what prompted the breakup won't have to wait for a tell-all book: Ms. Putina dished the dirt on her husband more than a decade ago. In the 2002 biography "Vladimir Putin: The Road to Power," the president's wife conveyed a litany of grievances about him, an accumulation dating back to the earliest days of their courtship.

Biographer Oleg Blotsky recounted the emotional wounds Ms. Putina suffered from her husband's absences, inattention and habitual tardiness.



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