The Trump administration has decided to delay imposing sanctions on a Russian businessman and his daughter, despite the U.S. government’s classification of them as “undermining the sovereignty” of Ukraine.
The “alina kabaeva” is a reputed girlfriend of Vladimir Putin. The U.S. has withheld sanctions on her and other close associates of Putin because the country is so close to Russia.
The United States and its allies have been imposing sanctions on Russia’s largest enterprises, corporate and political elites, all the way up to President Vladimir Putin, for many weeks.
Alina Kabaeva, the woman the US government thinks to be Mr. Putin’s lover and the mother of at least three of his children, has been spared in a last-minute decision.
Ms. Kabaeva, a former Olympic rhythmic gymnast famed for her extraordinary flexibility and an international drug controversy, is accused of helping Mr. Putin hide his personal money offshore, according to US authorities, and might face penalties.
According to US officials contemplating the action, penalizing Ms. Kabaeva would be seen as such a personal affront to Mr. Putin that it would exacerbate relations between the two countries. Mr. Putin, who is 69 years old, has never confirmed a connection with Ms. Kabaeva, a 39-year-old former Russian Vogue cover model.
On November 4, 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Alina Kabaeva met with the Russian Olympic squad in the Kremlin.
photo courtesy of itar-tass/Reuters
The US Treasury Department refused to comment on the sanctions package against Ms. Kabaeva, which is currently on hold, according to US sources. Action against Ms. Kabaeva is not ruled out, according to US authorities.
Mr. Putin’s connection with Ms. Kabaeva has long been disputed by the Kremlin. Dmitry Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesperson, did not reply to demands for comment. Ms. Kabaeva, who has denied having a romantic connection with Mr. Putin, was unavailable for comment.
“I have always detested individuals who, with their snotty noses and romantic desires, enter into other people’s private affairs,” Mr. Putin remarked in 2008 in reaction to press allegations of his purported connection with Ms. Kabaeva.
According to Russian official media representations of Mr. Putin, he lives a near-monastic existence committed to public duty with little time for a personal life. Katerina Tikhonova, 35, and Maria Vorontsova, 36, are the Russian president’s daughters from his previous marriage to Ludmilla Shkrebneva.
Ms. Kabaeva made a rare public appearance on Saturday at Moscow’s VTB Arena, where she performed rhythmic gymnastics for the “Alina” festival, a gymnastics display named after her. She was standing in front of a billboard with “Z” emblems, the sign for Russian military assistance in Ukraine.
“Every family has a battle tale,” she continued, “and we must pass these memories on to future generations.” She claimed that Russian gymnastics will get stronger as a result of the country’s international isolation: “We will only benefit from this.”
The Alina festival will be televised in May as part of the commemorations of Russia’s World War II triumph over Nazi Germany. According to Russian commentators, Mr. Putin may use the celebration to declare a military victory in Ukraine.
Mr. Putin’s two adult daughters have been sanctioned by the US. Ms. Kabaeva, dubbed Mr. Putin’s “mistress” by the US administration, is one of the moves judged hostile enough to hinder prospects for a negotiated solution in Ukraine, sources said.
When preparing sanctions packages, the Treasury and State departments usually collaborate, integrating intelligence and other data. Before a deal is revealed, the National Security Council must frequently approve off. The Treasury Department had prepared penalties on Ms. Kabaeva, but the NSC decided at the last minute to remove her name from a list that was about to be released.
In response to questioning from The Wall Street Journal, a US official stated, “We have prepared penalties on a number of persons who haven’t yet been sanctioned, and we continue to think about when to execute those sanctions for maximum effect.”
According to US authorities, Ms. Kabaeva and her family have benefited from contacts to members of Mr. Putin’s closest circle. According to a US individual familiar with the report, Ms. Kabaeva is named as a recipient of Mr. Putin’s riches in a secret US intelligence assessment conducted during the investigation into suspected Russian intervention in the 2016 US election.
During a meeting in 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin greeted Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, center.
SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP/Getty Images/SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP/Getty Images/SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP
On April 6, a representative of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny asked US senators to censure Ms. Kabaeva, alleging that she was assisting Mr. Putin in concealing his personal fortune. During her congressional hearing, the congresswoman did not offer any proof.
Ms. Kabaeva’s specific position in the Kremlin power structure is unknown to Western diplomats. The debate over slapping sanctions on her underscores many Western officials’ concerns about Mr. Putin’s personal influence, with some speculating that a former gymnast may be one of the country’s most powerful individuals due to her closeness to the Russian president.
According to US and European security agencies, Ms. Kabaeva has remained in Switzerland for extended periods of time. Ms. Kabaeva resided in a high-walled home with a helipad in Cologny, near Geneva, according to US sources informed on her travels. According to a US official, Mr. Putin’s cronies did business there and arrived and left by helicopter.
Officials claimed Ms. Kabaeva was seldom seen in Cologny, a remote hideaway for millionaires and sports stars in the hills above Lake Geneva.
Ukraine’s government has increased its pressure on the West to take action against her. Ukraine’s parliament wrote to Switzerland’s government earlier this month, requesting that Ms. Kabaeva be barred from entering the nation and that any property she owns be seized. The Swiss authorities said that it had no knowledge of her presence in the nation.
a signature maneuver
Ms. Kabaeva was born in Uzbekistan and left high school early to pursue her sport. She was 21 when she won a gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She became a national star, known for a a signature maneuver, which was named the “Kabaeva” in the rhythmic gymnastics rulebook. That earned her the informal title of “Russia’s most flexible woman.”
Some purists in the sport thought her extraordinary contortions were a gimmick. Despite this, she won 21 European Championship medals, 14 World Championship medals, and two Olympic medals, including a bronze at the Sydney Games in 2000.
Ms. Kabaeva’s medals at the 2001 World Championships in Madrid were taken away after she tested positive for a prohibited diuretic. She said the chemical was caused by contaminated medicines she purchased from a local drugstore. Ms. Kabaeva suffered a one-year suspension before returning to win the gold medal in the World Championships in Athens the following year.
Russian gymnast Alina Kabaeva performing a a signature maneuver during her routine in the rhythmic gymnastic individual exercise competition at the 1998 Goodwill Games held in Uniondale, N.Y.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images/TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images/TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/
In 2001, her name was first featured on the Kremlin’s website. Mr. Putin was seen with Ms. Kabaeva, who was 18 at the time, during a sporting event.
Mr. Putin, who was married at the time, and Ms. Kabaeva were engaged, according to the Moskovsky Korrespondent, a Russian tabloid. After Mr. Putin vehemently refuted the report, the daily newspaper’s owner, National Media Co., shut it down a few days later.
Ms. Kabaeva had resigned from gymnastics at the time and had joined Mr. Putin’s governing United Russia party as a politician. She was paid 11 million rubles ($140,000) each year.
Ms. Kabaeva resigned from parliament in 2014 to become the head of Russia’s New Media Group, which owns and operates pro-government television, radio, and news websites. NMG owner Yuri Kovalchuk, Rossiya Bank’s biggest shareholder, selected her.
Rossiya has been sanctioned by US authorities, who claim it was used by Mr. Putin’s close cronies. According to stolen data from Russia’s Federal Tax Service, Ms. Kabaeva’s yearly pay in 2018 was over $12 million.
On April 6, soon before the new round of fines, NMG deleted her name and photo from its website. Ms. Kabaeva did not react to queries sent to the firm, and NMG did not respond to calls for comment.
On November 27, 2011, in Moscow, Alina Kabaeva applauded Vladimir Putin’s address to the United Russia Party. Mr. Putin, who was then Prime Minister, was accepting the nomination to run for President again.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Sasha Mordovets
According to statistics from Russia’s property register, Rosreestr, Ms. Kabaeva and her family have purchased six flats, two homes, and acres of land in four of Russia’s most exclusive districts since roughly 2013.
According to the land registration, Ms. Kabaeva’s 87-year-old grandmother, mother, and sister purchased expensive residences from businesspeople close to Mr. Putin, including a 2,300-square-foot property in St. Petersburg, as well as luxury flats on a high-end Moscow boulevard and in the resort town of Sochi. Ms. Kabaeva’s firm contacted the family members for comment, but they did not answer.
With a torch in hand
Mr. Putin revealed in 2013 that he and Ms. Shkrebneva, his 30-year-old wife and a former Aeroflot cabin crew member, had divorced. He said, “It was a mutual decision.” “We don’t see each other very much since we each have our separate lives.”
The next year, their divorce was finalized. Following the event, Ms. Kabaeva was interviewed on state television and said that she had met someone “whom I love very much.” She was adamant about not revealing the person’s identity.
On May 7, 2012, Vladimir Putin and Ludmilla Shkrebneva, his wife at the time, attended a ceremony to commemorate the start of his presidency.
Reuters photo/Ria Novosti
When Ms. Kabaeva was chosen as a torchbearer for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, media rumours of a love engagement erupted. In response to reports that Mr. Putin hand-picked Ms. Kabaeva, Mr. Putin assured reporters that he would not “interfere in the process.”
Ms. Kabaeva moved to Switzerland in 2015 and gave birth to Mr. Putin’s kid, according to Swiss, US, and European authorities. She remained at the Sant’Anna, one of Europe’s most costly maternity centers, with a view of Lake Lugano. Mr. Putin’s spokesperson, Mr. Peskov, addressed claims that the president was with Ms. Kabaeva when he wasn’t seen in public for eight days around that time: “Information about the birth of a kid fathered by Vladimir Putin doesn’t correspond to reality,” he said.
Following the birth, Ms. Kabaeva spent more time in Switzerland, according to US and European authorities, at both a luxurious property in Lugano overlooking the city’s alpine lake and the high-walled complex in Cologny.
Ms. Kabaeva gave birth to twins in Moscow in 2019, according to US authorities, but it was not publicly announced. A news article about the twins was published on the website of the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets, which is owned by one of Mr. Putin’s closest allies. The item was swiftly taken down since it didn’t identify a father.
Media claims that Ms. Kabaeva had lived in Switzerland in the weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made significant news in the usually neutral Alpine country. “We have no information of this person’s existence in Switzerland,” the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police said in a statement. Ms. Kabaeva was not mentioned by name.
Switzerland stated in March that it had frozen $6.17 billion in Russian assets subject to sanctions, a small portion of the estimated $213 billion in Russian money in the nation, according to Switzerland’s banking lobby. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, which oversees sanctions, has come under fire from the US and Ukraine for failing to respond to requests to do more to freeze Russian assets in the country.
The difficulty, according to US officials, is predicting what effect, if any, placing penalties on Ms. Kabaeva would have. They admitted that sanctions would have little effect on the combat dynamics in Ukraine.
There’s also the possibility that Mr. Putin may “react aggressively,” according to a US Treasury official from the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
—This article was co-written by Justin Scheck.
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Vladimir Putin’s children are the focus of U.S. sanctions, as they were named in a law passed by Congress to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Reference: putin children.
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