For more than a decade, rumors in the international press have romantically linked Alina Kabaeva to Vladimir Putin. Now, the renowned former rhythmic gymnast and Olympic champion is once again attracting media attention after being sanctioned by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, for her closeness to the leader of Russia.
Although the two are rarely seen together, the relationship Putin has repeatedly denied so far is unclear. But who is Alina Kabaeva, Vladimir Putin’s supposed girlfriend?
Alina Maratovna Kabaeva was born in Uzbekistan, then a Soviet republic, in 1983. He debuted in rhythmic gymnastics at age 13 by winning his first world rope title in 1998, according to his biography published on the official site of the Olympic Games.
Since then she has become a renowned gymnast, winner of multiple medals and recognitions in Russia, in European competitions, and in the Olympic Games. It is said that it was at this time that he supposedly met Vladimir Putin.
After a prolific sports career, in 2001, Kabaeva tested positive in an anti-doping test conducted at the Friendship Games for “furosemide”, a diuretic used to lose weight or to mask the taking of other products. The case was not made public until November of that same year when his coach, Irina Viner, admitted doping “by mistake”; Meanwhile, the gymnast competed and won no less than 12 medals at the World Championships in October 2001 in Madrid. However, these were withdrawn by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) in February 2002.
Two years later, she was recognized with the gold medal of rhythmic gymnastics at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, however, from this year she retired “little by little” from the sport and made a leap into politics, where she held a seat in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, with the ruling United Russia party.
After her time in the Duma, Kabaeva was chosen as one of the torchbearers when Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, an event that took place shortly before the country illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
She is currently a director of the National Media Group, a media conglomerate that the U.S. Treasury Department describes as “a pro-Kremlin empire of television, radio and printing organizations.”
According to Information from The Wall Street Journal, US officials have claimed that both she and her family have enriched themselves thanks to their closeness to Vladimir Putin, although the Kremlin has denied any kind of relationship between the two.
Recently, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the Russian leader’s alleged girlfriend as part of a series of measures targeting elites, in an attempt by the Biden administration to punish the Kremlin for its ongoing war in Ukraine.
Alina Kabaeva was sanctioned “for being or having been a leader, official, senior executive or member of the board of directors of the Government of the Russian Federation” and her visa to travel to those countries has been withdrawn.