Last night, Vladimir Putin and his wife, Lyudmila, announced their separation.
Wait, Vladimir Putin was married?
Perhaps the most surprising detail to emerge from the news, which the couple revealed to a reporter after an evening at a ballet in the Kremlin was that the Russian president has been married for 29 years to a woman we rarely see.
To be sure, Lyudmila (born Lyudmila Shkrebneva) is no recluse. And she attended her husband’s inauguration in May, 2012. But the majority of pictures that show them together date back to his tenure as prime minister.
“Our marriage is over because practically we don’t see each other,” she told the interviewer of the state television channel.
So much for absence making the heart grow fonder. And indeed, as they stood beside each other yesterday, they seemed like colleagues breaking off a business relationship.
You can watch the interview here.
In it, she points out that she despises publicity and doesn’t enjoy flying.
“It was a joint decision,” Mr. Putin said.
In an age where the partners of world leaders are very much on display – regularly appearing at official ceremonies and leveraging their visibility to champion various causes – Ms. Putin has been somewhat of an outlier.
And then there are the rumours of Putin’s mistress, which were not at all addressed yesterday for obvious reasons. But the Daily Mail shows pictures of the 30-year-old former gymnast-turned-politician Alina Kabaeva in its coverage today, even mentioning a “lovechild.”
It is unclear how the public as well as the Orthodox Church, which tolerates divorce under various circumstances, will view the president’s decision. The couple have two daughters, both in their 20s, who have managed to stay out of the spotlight.
Putin ends the interview – staged to look impromptu (no formal press conference, no talk show sofa) – by calling their separation a “civilized divorce.” Then he walks away and she follows behind.
The announcement was made just over a month shy of their 30th anniversary.