putin gymnast Alina Kabaeva

Vladimir Putin’s alleged mistress has resurfaced in Moscow after speculation that she has been hiding out in Switzerland.

Alina Kabaeva, one of Russia’s most revered gymnasts and the woman long rumoured to be the mistress of the 69-year-old Russian president, was photographed on Thursday for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Dispelling suggestions that she is hiding in Switzerland, the 38-year-old Olympic medalist stopped by a rehearsal at Moscow’s VTB Arena ahead of the Alina Festival, her annual charity event scheduled for Saturday.

Photos of Ms Kabaeva were posted late on Thursday by Yekaterina Sirotina, a well-known rhythmic gymnastics choreographer who thanked the former champion for a “very special creative atmosphere at the event”.

Alina Kabaeva

Ms Kabaeva is a rare Russian celebrity who is almost never seen in public. She has not addressed persistent rumours about marriage or pregnancy and unlike other Russian celebrities, she is very rarely photographed in public.

Glossy magazines in Russia on Friday dissected Ms Kabaeva’s appearance after the photo emerged, commenting on her £700 sneakers and speculating about plastic surgery.

Alina Kabaeva

A popular Russian Telegram channel suggested Ms Kabaeva has received botox and filler treatments similar to those of Putin.

Russian investigative journalists have previously uncovered a complex web of property links between Putin’s inner circle and Ms Kabaeva’s family.

In 2016, Russia’s TV Rain reported that a childhood friend of Putin and his long-time associate both transferred the ownership of three luxurious apartments in Moscow and St Petersburg’s high-end neighbourhoods to Ms Kabaeva’s elderly grandmother.

Separately, Putin’s judo sparring partner reportedly gifted more luxurious property to Ms Kabaeva’s sister and grandmother.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

Despite having no experience in journalism or management, the gymnast has served as chairperson of the board of National Media Group (NMG), a media empire owned by a friend of Putin, since 2014.

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s jailed opposition leader, has described NMG as an asset that “undoubtedly belongs to Putin personally”.

Ms Kabaeva’s name disappeared from NMG’s website earlier this month amid fears that the company might face Western sanctions.

Alina Kabaeva - AP
Alina Kabaeva – AP

While not often seen in public, when she does make an appearance it sometimes ends in embarrassing gaffes.

Ms Kabaeva recorded a video interview for state Russian TV last summer from her home, commenting on the gymnastics competition at the Tokyo Games and sporting a wedding ring. A few hours later, the gymnast recorded another video just as social media was swirling with comments about her rumoured husband. This time, she was not wearing any rings.

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