Britain has sanctioned Putin’s alleged mistress, ex-wife and cousins

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LONDON – Britain announced a new wave of sanctions Friday targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intimate circle of family and childhood friends, including his ex-wife, first cousins ​​and a woman widely identified as his girlfriend, former gymnast Alina Kabayeva.

British officials say the 12 people in the latest tranche of sanctions are not branded, jet-set oligarchs who own football teams or huge oil and gas positions, but trusted fixers, relatives and childhood friends who help the Russian leader to hide and spend his vast wealth.

Britain is the first country to sanction 39-year-old Kabayeva, an Olympic champion in rhythmic gymnastics and a cover model for the Russian edition of Vogue magazine. Putin is 69 years old.

Kabayeva has become chairman of the National Media Group’s board, according to reports by Russia’s largest private media company, a tool for pro-war propaganda, officials said.

“She is said to have a close personal relationship with Putin and was previously a member of Putin’s United Russia Duma,” the British Foreign Office said in a statement.

British officials, who informed reporters, said the friends and family were not very skilled at their job, but were “engineered into positions” to help Putin, assuming they were well-paid aides “lurking in the shadows”. .

The Kremlin has long denied a romantic relationship between Putin and Kabayeva. A Russian newspaper that published a 2008 report linking the two was mysteriously shut down shortly afterwards, although various reports indicate that she is the mother of several of his children.

Kabayeva seems to have ended her athletic career when she was romantically involved with Putin. She later became a member of Putin’s ruling United Russia party and was one of six torchbearers during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

According to an April report by the Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration discuss the imposition of sanctions Kabayeva, but gave up at the last minute, worried that such a move would further escalate tensions between Russia and the United States.

Putin has not acknowledged ties to Kabayeva, but British officials have said steps have been taken since the start of the war in Ukraine to keep her out of the public eye by removing her name from Russian business sites.

The UK’s sanctions list is close to Putin’s home. Among them are Kabayeva’s grandmother, who according to the British government owns a luxury apartment in Moscow, and the former wife of Russian President Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, a former first lady of the Russian Federation.

The list also includes Igor Putin, the president’s first cousin; Mikhail Putin, relative; and Roman Putin, first cousin, once removed.

Earlier, Britain and the United States imposed sanctions on Putin’s daughters, Maria Vorontsova, 36, and Katerina Tikhonova, 35. They are his children by his ex-wife Ocheretnaya.

The British government described the individuals as “enabling”.

“We are uncovering and targeting the shadow network that supports Putin’s luxurious lifestyle and tightens the vice on his inner circle,” UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement on Friday.

Britain is campaigning for sanctions, targeting more than 1,000 individuals and 100 legal entities, including $ 142 billion oligarchs. UK officials say tens of billions of pounds in assets have been frozen in Britain.

Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday urged its citizens to refrain from traveling to the United Kingdom, warning visitors of the “extremely hostile course” Britain has taken, and said it was best not to go “to avoid financial losses and other possible problems. “

Brian Peach of Seoul contributed to this report.

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