Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila have announced their decision to divorce after nearly 30 years of marriage.
In an awkward joint interview on state television, given after a rare public outing together, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila announced that they have separated, informs the Independent.
The couple were interviewed by Russian state television at the Bolshoi Theatre, and after answering several questions about how they enjoyed the ballet they had just seen, the interviewer asked a surprise question: “You are so rarely seen together and there are rumours that you are no longer together. Is that true?”
“Yes, it is,” answered Mr. Putin, after a short pause. He added that his work as President meant he was hardly ever at home.
“I agree with the words of Vladimir Vladimirovich, and it was a joint decision,” said Ms. Putina, using the formal patronymic version of Mr. Putin’s name that is usually reserved for strangers or social superiors. Mr. Putin referred to her in the same way, calling her “Lyudmila Alexandrovna”.
The announcement removes a big question mark about the private life of a president who has increasingly touted traditional values and championed the conservative Russian Orthodox Church as a moral authority.
Putin smiled woodenly and nodded as Lyudmila spoke, though they both appeared more relaxed after making the announcement, reports Reuters.
Lyudmila, a former airline stewardess five years younger than the 60-year-old president, said it had been “our common decision”.
“Our marriage is over due to the fact that we barely see each other,” she said.
The pair’s two daughters, 28-year-old Maria and 26-year-old Yekaterina, have been hidden from view to such an extent that few in Russia know what they look like.
Mr. Putin said the couple “loves their children and is very proud of them,” noting that they now lead their own lives in Russia. Mrs. Putina thanked him for supporting her and her daughters.
“I am very grateful to Vladimir… that he still supports me. And the children, he really cares for them and the children feel this,” she said.
The divorce is the first of its kind for modern Russia. Previously, no top Russian figure, let alone the country’s leader, would have dared to make such a move.
The Thursday ballet was the couple’s first joint public appearance in more than a year. “We practically never see each other,” Mrs. Putin said in an interview with Russia 24. “We have our own lives.”
The Putins spoke to Rossiya-24 TV after attending a ballet performance in the Kremlin, in what at first appeared to be a staged effort to show that they were still together.
After answering questions at length about the ballet, the Putins were asked about the rumors they lived apart.
“That is true. All my activity is linked to public affairs … and there are people who are totally incompatible with that,” Putin said. “Lyudmila Alexandrovna has done her shift,” he added with a chuckle.
Previous rumors had swirled around the demise of Russia’s first couple, dating back to 2008 when a report about Putin divorcing Lyudmila to marry a gold medal-winning gymnast led to the publishing newspaper being shut down. The couple also appeared uncomfortable in a public appearance in 2010, fueling speculation their marriage had already ended.
Lyudmila also disappeared from the public eye for a number of months into 2012, leading to speculation the couple had divorced, says the Huff Post.