Wednesday, April 17

Putin’s alleged mistress is possible U.S. sanctions target

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Alina Kabaeva, a famed Russian gymnast turned apparent romantic partner of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is a potential target for sanctions, the Biden administration said, after questions were raised this week about the lack of penalties against her.

“No one is safe from our sanctions,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, after the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States had made an “11th-hour decision” to remove Kabaeva from a set of new sanctions.

“There’s more we will likely do,” Psaki said.

Since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, the United States has sanctioned Putin, his associates and even two of his daughters. President Biden also said last month — before the White House backtracked on his remark — that Putin “cannot remain in power.”

But Kabaeva is considered so close to Putin, the Journal reported, that sanctions against her could risk further disrupting relations between Washington and Moscow. Global leaders are pushing for Russia to commit to meaningful peace talks, and Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, said this week that the Kremlin wants to “stabilize” and “develop” relations with the Biden administration.

The sanctions against Putin’s daughters, Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova, were levied after evidence emerged of what the United States and other nations have described as war crimes committed by Russian forces in the Kyiv region of Ukraine, including beheadings, torture, random killings of civilians and the mutilation of corpses.

The West has targeted Putin’s associates and their family members because it says “Putin and many of his cronies and the oligarchs hide their wealth, hide their assets with family members,” a senior Biden administration official said this month, speaking on the condition of anonymity under terms set by the White House.

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U.S. targets Putin family members with sanctions. Here’s what to know.

For instance, The Washington Post and a consortium of news organizations unveiled documents last year that indicate ownership of a luxury apartment in Monaco by another woman who has reportedly been romantically involved with Putin. Kabaeva’s grandmother also acquired ownership of property such as a luxury riverside apartment in St. Petersburg from a business associate of Putin, according to Russian media reports.

The Kremlin has long denied the alleged relationship between Putin and Kabaeva. A Russian newspaper that published a report in 2008 linking the two was mysteriously shut down soon after, although various reports have suggested that she is the mother of at least a few of his children.

Kabaeva appears to have ended her athletic career around the time she was romantically linked with Putin. She later became a lawmaker from Putin’s ruling United Russia party and was one of six torch bearers during the Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Last week, she was spotted publicly for the first time in months at her “Alina Festival” in Moscow, according to pictures posted on Instagram.

While Kabaeva has yet to be sanctioned by the United States, she was called out along with Putin and his family in a Republican-sponsored House bill — known as the Putin Accountability Act — that aimed to dissuade the Russian leader from invading Ukraine.

Part of the proposed legislation called for a report “on the estimated net worth and known sources of income of Vladimir Putin and his family members, as well as of Alina Kabaeva.”

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The bill, according to a Republican statement at the time, sought to “impose sanctions on Putin, his family members, mistress and network of kleptocratic oligarchs.”

Julian Duplain contributed to this report.

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