The glamorous ex-gymnast Alina Kabaeva – rumoured to be Vladimir Putin’s long-time partner – has recently given birth to twins, according to reports.
There has been no confirmation from the Olympic gold medal-winner and the Kremlin never discusses the divorced president’s private life, with the state-run media in Russia obediently following suit.
A source close to 36-year-old Kabaeva, who is rumoured to have a hidden family with Putin, was quoted saying: “We do not comment on the rumours.”
The entire VIP fourth floor at the Kulakov Research Centre for Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Perinatology was cleared earlier this month to accommodate the former gymnast and MP, say reports.
One major newspaper, Moskovsky Komsomolets, carried the story on its website only to suddenly delete it and wipe all mentions of the claims, including from the internet cache.
But the reports have persisted with one outlet dni.ru running the headline: “Alina Kabaeva gave birth to twins and disappeared.”
Separately, Sergei Kanev, an investigative journalist close to the Russian intelligence services, posted that she gave birth to twin boys by Caesarean.
He was informed that “countless” Federal Protective Service officers were brought in and “sniffed every corner” of the maternity hospital before her arrival.
“Half of the medical team was kicked out of the delivery ward,” he said, citing his own source.
“A famous doctor from Italy was the key to helping the birth with the assistance of academician Gennady Sukhikh, director of the medical centre.
“The mother was delivered of two boys.
“However, a C-section had to be performed.”
He did not name the Italian doctor.
There has been no mention of the ex-gymnast's alleged twins in popular news outlets Life and REN TV which are controlled by Kabaeva, who now heads TV and newspaper giant National Media Group.
The “story” was originally revealed as an exclusive by showbiz news website Dom2Life owned by judo-loving tycoon Alexander Karmanov on 12 May, Kabaeva’s 36th birthday.
Russian researchers say Karmanov is close to oligarch Arkady Rotenburg, one of Putin’s oldest friends, and his former judo sparring partner.
The report about her giving birth to twins follows a series of “stories” about Kabaeva – often uncomplimentary – on obscure Russian-language websites in recent months.
One media analyst commented: “There seems to be a campaign against her but it is not clear who is behind this.”
One theory is that many reports originate in Ukraine, which has had icy relations with Russia since Putin annexed Crimea in 2014.
But the twins report does not fit this theory.
Despite claims that Kabaeva is Russia’s secret first lady and that she has been close to divorced Putin for more than a decade, she seldom makes public appearances.
She has not been seen in public since October last year when she defended her PhD thesis into training pre-school children in rhythmic gymnastics.
Unusually she was not seen on her birthday – 12 May – but gymnasts she mentors sent her a message wishing her “happiness, health and success in your private life”.
Her close confidante ex-coach Irina Viner, wife of billionaire Alisher Usmanov, a former shareholder at Arsenal FC, sent her own video message to "the beautiful, intelligent, kind, decent, caring and vivacious woman you are” hoping “your stunning angelic Hollywood smile always shines on your face”
In recent years Kabaeva has repeatedly denied she has children, but this has not stopped whispers in Moscow that she has a hidden family with Putin.
A fact-checking media watchdog claimed the recent Moscow birth was to another woman called Kabaeva – and not the gymnast.
However, social media accounts belonging to the other woman sharing Kabaeva's name suggest she has not yet given birth.
Vista News claimed that Kabaeva in January flew to Switzerland “in a rush” with a three year old boy she allegedly shares with Putin.
This referred to unconfirmed reports in 2015 that she had given birth in a Swiss clinic.
Other reports frequently allege Kabaeva – like Putin – has undergone facelifts and other plastic surgery.
There are also claims she uses private jets and has a fleet of Maybach limousines at her disposal along with a large security retinue.
Last year a journalist from Life News – part of Kabaeva’s media empire – asked 66-year-old divorcee Putin at his annual televised press conference in Moscow: “When will you get married? And with whom?”
Putin smiled and replied: "As a decent person I will have to do this sooner or later.”
One journalist Dmitry Kolezev – noting Kabaeva’s link to Life – said: “So quite literally this was a question from Alina. Beautifully done.”
Putin divorced former wife Lyudmila in 2014 after a joint appearance to announce their split.
Since then Kabaeva has appeared several times wearing what seems to be a wedding ring, leading to social media memes showing their marriage.
The question of Putin’s love life is generally viewed as a taboo topic in Russia.
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