Uncrowned queen of Russia: Putin ‘funnels millions by buying largest apartment in Russia for gymnast lover’
Vladimir Putin bought his gymnast lover the largest apartment in Russia and a wooden mansion deep in the countryside, according to an investigation.
A report by Project, a Russian opposition website banned by the Kremlin, alleged that Putin, 70, funnelled millions in illicit funds into properties for his 39-year-old girlfriend Alina Kabaeva.
Ms Kabaeva, who has been called “the uncrowned queen of Russia”, is believed to have been in a relationship with the Russian president since the early 2000s, including while he was still married.
The 39-year-old is an Olympic gold medallist and is widely believed to be the mother of at least three of Putin’s young children.
The properties include a 2,600 sq m penthouse in Sochi, the Russian resort city on the Black Sea that hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The penthouse is registered to Oleg Rudnov, an ally of Putin, and has 20 rooms, a private cinema, a swimming pool, a rooftop helipad, a spa zone and a Japanese relaxation courtyard.
A number of other properties are registered in the names of Ms Kabaeva’s relatives, including her grandmother, Anna Zatsepilina, who, according to Project, owns property worth almost £10 million, including a three-storey manor house in an elite area near Moscow and apartments in the same complex as the penthouse in Sochi.
A mansion made entirely from wood near another mansion owned by Putin was constructed for Ms Kabaeva on Putin’s orders, according to the Project report. The property is believed to be where Kabaeva and the couple’s children spend the majority of their time. A go-kart track and a large children’s playground have been built at the site, according to satellite imagery.
The mansion, near Lake Valdai, is said to be registered to a company controlled by Yury Kovalchuk, a Kremlin-linked billionaire who is known as Putin’s banker.
The Russian president is thought to travel to the property 250 miles northeast of Moscow, on an armoured train that departs from a secret railway station in the capital.
The route is also used by Ms Kabaeva’s team of assistants, according to a leaked database of ticket reservations.
Ms Kabaeva is a vocal supporter of the invasion of Ukraine and was an MP in Putin’s ruling United Russia party between 2007-2014. She was then appointed head of the National Media Company on an annual salary of £7.7 million, despite having no media management experience.
In August 2022 the 39-year-old was sanctioned by the US over the Ukraine invasion. The treasury department froze her vis and imposed other property restrictions.
The Project report also published leaked photographs of what it said was the interior of one of Putin’s hideaways in northern Russia. The villa is near to the wooden mansion built for Ms Kabaeva and is said to be among Putin’s favourite properties. The photos showed Putin’s bedroom and study, as well as a massive chandelier decorated with rubies and gold leaf.
In 2021 allies of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny alleged that state funds had been used to lease the property from one of Putin’s closest allies, and to carry out extensive renovations.
The investigation also revealed the alleged ownership of an offshore company registered in Cyprus called Ermira Consultants. Although the firm is officially owned by a Russian lawyer named Vladislav Kopylov, sources told Project that in reality it belonged to Putin.
The Cypriot company has accounts at Rossiya Bank, whose shareholders include Svetlana Krivonogikh who became enormously wealthy after a rumoured affair with Putin in the 2000s. The company also has accounts at SMP Bank, founded by Arkady Rotenberg, an oligarch who is one of the Russian leader’s oldest friends.
In 2008, a Moscow newspaper was closed down within hours of writing about the alleged affair between Ms Kabaeva and the Russian president, which Putin denied.
Project was declared an “undesirable organisation” by Russia in 2021 and its journalists face up to six years in prison if they are arrested in Russia.