Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila announce split

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and his wife Lyudmila have ended years of speculation about their 30-year relationship, admitting that they had decided to end their marriage.

In a stilted – but clearly staged – interview on Russianstate television after a night together at the ballet, the couple said they had agreed to a "civilised break-up" because they barely saw each other. It appeared that a formal divorce had not yet taken place.

The announcement will likely only fuel speculation about Mr Putin'sprivate life. The 60-year-old Russian president has been dogged by rumours for years that he had an affair with Alina Kabayeva, a 30-year-old politician and former Olympic rhythmic gymnast, although no hard evidence has ever been presented to confirm that.

The Russian leader and his wife, 55, spoke after attending a performance of La Esmeralda – a ballet inspired by the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame – at the State Kremlin palace, their first public engagement together since his returned to the presidency in May last year.

Mrs Putina appears only very rarely in public. She was said to be living far away from the Kremlin, in a £1m state-owned retreat on the border with Estonia. Some reports even suggested she joined a convent.

The nervous-looking couple answered several questions about the ballet – with Mr Putin saying with uncharacteristic verve that it was "superb, superb".

The correspondent from Rossiya 24 then asked about persistent rumours that he and his wife no longer lived together.

"Yes, that's true," said Mr Putin after glancing at Mrs Putina, who nodded. "Everything I do is connected with the public sphere. Some people like that, some people don't. There are some people who are completely incompatible with that."

Using Mrs Putina's formal name, he added: "Lyudmila Alexandrovna maintained an eight-year watch, nine years even. In short, it's a joint decision."

Mrs Putina, who wore pearls and a black-and-white outfit, confirmed that they had decided together to go their separate ways.

"Vladimir Vladimirovich is completely immersed in his work. Our children have grown up. It has turned out that each person is living their separate life. And I genuinely don't like the publicity, the flights are tough for me and we practically don't see each other."

Mr Putin added that he and his wife loved and were proud of their daughters, Katya, 27, and Masha, 28, who, like their mother, have kept out of the spotlight.

"Lyudmila Alexandrovna and I will always remain close to each other," he said. "I'm sure that will be so forever."

The couple married almost 30 years ago on July 28, 1983, when Mr Putin was a young officer in the KGB and his future wife was an air hostess.
Read more... http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/10104671/Vladimir-Putin-and-his-wife-Lyudmila-announce-split.html

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