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Putin denies report that rumoured lover will help light Sochi’s Olympic fire

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with members of the Russian Security Council at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

Alexei Nikolsky/AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin has quashed rumours that the lighting of Sochi's official Olympic fire will feature a former rhythmic gymnastics star to whom he has been linked romantically.

A prominent Moscow journalist had suggested that the lighting of the cauldron would include Alina Kabaeva, the 30-year-old former Olympic gold medallist who is now a member of the Russian parliament with Mr. Putin's governing United Russia party.

Rumours of a long-running affair between the two added to interest in the report.

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In 2008, Mr. Putin issued a firm denial in the face of tabloid media reports linking him to Ms. Kabaeva. At a news conference held at the villa of then Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (who himself has been the subject of lurid reports about sexual assignations), Mr. Putin answered a question from a Russian journalist about a report that he had divorced his wife and intended to marry Ms. Kabaeva.

"Not a single word of truth," he declared.

Nevertheless, rumours have persisted that Ms. Kabaeva and the 61-year-old president are romantically involved, particularly after Mr. Putin announced last June that he had separated from his wife of 30 years.

Last week the television host, socialite and opposition politician Kseniya Sobchak suggested on her Twitter account that Ms. Kabaeva would have a prominent place at the cauldron lighting.

On Tuesday Mr. Putin was asked about it, according a report carried by state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti.

"I'm aware of it," Mr. Putin said of the report, "but these are just more spoof stories."

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