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Why Putin’s alleged lover Alina Kabaeva hasn’t been sanctioned over Ukraine war

US officials have so far excluded Vladimir Putin’s rumored longtime mistress, ex-Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, from several rounds of sanctions following the Ukraine invasion – a decision reportedly made over fears of derailing efforts to negotiate an end to the war. The 69-year-old Russian president has never publicly addressed his relationship with Kabaeva, a 39-year-old former Russian Vogue cover model, and both the Kremlin and Kabaeva herself have denied they are attached. But the feds believe that Kabaeva, who has been rumored for many years to be romantically involved with Putin, is the mother of at least three of the Russian leader’s children that haven’t been revealed to the public. Treasury Department officials went as far as to prepare a sanctions package targeting Kabaeva — who is thought to be involved in the Kremlin’s effort to hide the true scale of Putin’s wealth and international assets, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing US officials with knowledge of the matter. However, the National Security Council nixed the sanctions shortly before they were set to be announced, according to the outlet. While Kabaeva is accused of helping to hide Putin’s wealth abroad, few details about her alleged activities are publicly known. She is widely rumored to live in Switzerland. In March, Page Six reported that Kabaeva was hunkering down in Switzerland with her and Putin’s four young children. “While Putin carries out his assault on the Ukraine, attacking innocent citizens and causing a refugee crisis, his family is holed up in a very private and very secure chalet somewhere in Switzerland — for now, at least,” a source told Page Six. Kabaeva was a well-known rhythmic gymnast in her athletic heyday – winning two Olympic medals, including gold at the 2004 games in Athens, Greece. Known for her contortionist skills during her performances, she was once dubbed “Russia’s most flexible woman.” Her gymnastics career also included some controversy. In 2002, Kabaeva received a one-year ban from competition and was stripped of some medals after testing positive for a banned substance. Kabaeva’s ties to Putin first surfaced in 2008, when Russian newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent reported Putin had divorced his wife and was engaged to the ex-gymnast. The newspaper later shut down. Putin slammed rumors about his alleged relationship with Kabaeva. “I have a private life in which I do not permit interference. It must be respected,” Putin said at the time. “I have always reacted negatively to those who with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies prowl into others’ lives.” Officials fear that sanctioning Putin’s secretive mistress would further inflame tensions between the US and Russia during a war in which Russian forces are already accused of widespread human rights violations – and could impact efforts to achieve peace in Ukraine. While the sanctions have been tabled for now, the Biden administration hasn’t entirely ruled out implementing them in the future. “We have prepared sanctions on a number of people who haven’t yet been sanctioned, and we continue to think about when to impose those sanctions for maximum impact,” a US official told the Wall Street Journal. The Treasury and the State Department did not immediately return request for comment. The Biden administration has stopped short of targeting Kabaeva despite levying penalties against several individuals with close ties to the Kremlin – including Putin’s daughters, Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova. When announcing those sanctions, the White House described the pair as Putin’s “adult children.” The White House has also sanctioned the family members of other prominent Russians close to Putin, including the wife and daughter of Kremlin spokesperson Dmitriy Peskov. Meanwhile, Russia has responded with sanctions against prominent individuals and family members close to the White House, including President Biden’s son, Hunter, and Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff. Kabaeva has kept a low profile since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, though she resurfaced during a recent event for Russia’s junior national rhythmic gymnastics event in Moscow.

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