Now here’s an interesting rumour circulating around the Russian language blogs – 26 year old Russian Olympic gymnast turned Duma Deputy Alina Kabaeva has just given birth to Vladimir Putin’s son.
Kabaeva, if you recall, was the Russian beauty who alleged to have secretly married Putin last year. The story captured headlines all over the world, and – unsurprisingly – made Putin very very cross. Aleksandr Lebedev, the billionaire owner of Moskovsky Korrespondent, the newspaper that broke the story, was hauled over the coals by Putin, forced to retract the story, and closed the newspaper down within months.
(Naturally, we all know that Putin, a balding man in his 50s, was secretly delighted to be linked romantically with a flexible young Russian gymnast, regardless of whether the story was true or not.)
Adding fuel to the rumour fire is that not a single one of the major Russian news agencies have mentioned the birth. I suppose that it is possible that nobody in Russia thinks this is newsworthy, but more likely, they saw what happened to the last newspaper to break a story about Putin’s love life and decided that they’d quite like to stay in business.
But, whatever the reason, it’s raised eyebrows. As Russia! Magazine’s Blah Blah blog notes / pleads:
“The most puzzling part of this story is that at press time not a single major Russian media has reported that Kabaeva had a son. Come on, Channel One Russia and The Moscow Times, say something! Or else the bloggers are starting to look very convincing.”
A few (a very few!) internet only publications are covering the story. But even they are nervous. Take this story from Rupor.info, for example. They’ve noticed that Express Gazeta posted a small story about the birth, then quickly withdrew it.
Want more fuel to add to the fire? How about this?
Putin and his (official) wife Ludmilla haven’t been seen out together in public for more than a year. Most strikingly at this Easter’s publicly televised TV service, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stood with his wife Svetlana, but Putin stood alone.
Until last week, that is – the two ventured out for a very public meeting with the newly appointed Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kiril.
The question on Russian bloggers minds is, why would one bring one’s (official) aged wife out of semi-retirement at exactly the same time as one’s (alleged!) wife has just given birth to a bouncing baby boy?
Is it because Putin wants deflect rumours about his alleged illegitimate son and represent himself as a stable, long-married family man, respectable enough to be elected again as Russia’s President in a few years time?
Update 27 May 2009: Kabaeva has posted an update on her blog categorically denying that she has given birth. Which kind of rules out the prospect of Putin bouncing a bonny baby boy on his knee any time soon…
Dear friends! I don’t normally comment rumors, but this time I’ve decided to make an exception. The reason being I cannot leave unanswered many warm words and wishes … On my site in the section “My life” I promised to tell about most important events in my life, about my family. Hence, when I become a mother (which hasn’t happen yet), I will certainly write about it. At any rate – I thank all those who congratulated me and showed their concern. Just for you I have compromised my principle: never to pay any attention to rumors.”
Translation courtesy of The Russian President, a reliable friend of Prime Minister Putin