US imposes sanctions on Alina Kabaeva, Putin’s alleged girlfriend

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The United States imposed sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged romantic partner on Tuesday, in the latest round of sanctions targeting Kremlin-linked officials and entities in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Alina Kabaeva, 39, was among 13 Russian nationals added to the Treasury Department’s sanctions list. A former star gymnast with two Olympic gold medals, Kabaeva has become better known in recent years as the rumored girlfriend of the 69-year-old Russian leader.

Tuesday’s US ad cited Kabaeva’s “close relationship with Putin”, although it did not specifically mention a romantic connection. But the US government maintains that Kabaeva is the mother of at least three of Putin’s children, the Wall Street Journal reported, and had previously prepared a set of sanctions against her before making a last-minute decision in late April not to hurt prospects. for a negotiated peace in Ukraine.

Kabaeva was also a deputy from Putin’s party in the State Duma and currently heads the pro-Kremlin National Media Group, which operates a network of television and radio stations and publishes newspapers in Russia. Kabaeva was already under EU and UK sanctions.

“While innocent people suffer from Russia’s unlawful war of aggression, Putin’s allies have enriched themselves and funded opulent lifestyles,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a press release. “The Treasury Department will use every tool at its disposal to ensure that Russian elites and Kremlin enablers are held accountable for their complicity in a war that has cost countless lives.”

Kabaeva, who was born in Uzbekistan in 1983, has become known in Russia as one of the most decorated athletes in rhythmic gymnastics. Her sporting career was not without controversy, however – she had to return two medals from the 2001 Goodwill Games after a doping scandal.

Kabaeva retired from the sport around the same time reports surfaced that she was romantically involved with Putin.

The Kremlin has denied the alleged relationship. A Russian newspaper that published an article in 2008 saying Putin and Kabaeva had a romantic relationship was quickly shut down under mysterious circumstances.

Putin and his wife of 30 years, Lyudmila Putina, divorced in 2014.

Kabaeva and her family have benefited greatly from ties to Putin’s circle, according to Russian and US media. A classified US intelligence assessment of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election listed Kabaeva as a beneficiary of Putin’s wealth, the Journal reported in April, citing a US official.

The luxurious lifestyles of Putin’s girlfriends have fueled speculation about their relationship with the Russian president. The Pandora Papers, a treasure trove of documents uncovered by the Washington Post and a consortium of news agencies last year, showed that another woman allegedly romantically involved with Putin owned a posh apartment in Monaco and a company. screen in the British Virgin Islands – even as it was unclear how she had amassed so much wealth.

Kabaeva was spotted publicly for the first time in months in late April, when she led her annual “Alina Festival,” a patriotic rhythmic gymnastics festival in Moscow. She stood in front of a backdrop decorated with the letter Z, the state symbol for its invasion of Ukraine.

The United States had previously imposed sanctions on Putin’s daughters from a former marriage, Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova, after evidence of alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces during their occupation of Kyiv suburbs, the Ukrainian capital, have been revealed. Atrocities included the beheading and torture of civilians.

The latest sanctions target Russian elites and companies operating in sectors “that generate substantial revenue for the Russian regime”, the statement said.

Besides Kabaeva, they include Andrey Grigoryevich Guryev, founder of a Russian chemical company and owner of London’s second-largest estate after Buckingham Palace, and Viktor Filippovich Rashnikov, majority owner and chairman of the board of MMK, one of largest steel producers in the world. . Two MMK subsidiaries were also subject to sanctions.

The sanctions freeze US assets of those targeted and prohibit US individuals or entities from doing any transactions with them.

The State Department, meanwhile, announced new sanctions against three Russian oligarchs and Kremlin-backed officials in areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces or by proxy, including Mariupol and Kherson. The sanctions also target 24 Russian defense and technology-related entities, including research centers.

“Our actions target some of Russia’s most important defence-related research and development institutions, semiconductor producers, and advanced computing and electronics entities,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “These actions will further isolate Russian defense and high-tech industries and limit their contributions to Moscow’s war machine.”

The department also imposed visa restrictions on nearly 900 Russian officials as well as “31 foreign government officials who acted in support of Russia’s alleged annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and thereby threatened or violated sovereignty. of Ukraine”.

Canada also unveiled a new round of sanctions on Tuesday, targeting 43 military officials and 17 entities “that are complicit in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s senseless bloodshed,” including atrocities in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, according to the announcement from Global Affairs Canada.

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