Russian President Vladimir Putin sparked international outrage by sending his troops into Ukraine last week. The country's capital, Kyiv, has been
Russian President Vladimir Putin sparked international outrage by sending his troops into Ukraine last week. The country’s capital, Kyiv, has been hit with heavy artillery and Russian forces are still attempting to push further into the city. Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky condemned Russia’s attack on Babyn Yar – the site of a second world war massacre of Jews by German occupation troops. He said today: “This strike proves that, for many people in Russia, our Kyiv is absolutely foreign.
“They don’t know a thing about Kyiv, about our history. But they all have orders to erase our history, erase our country, erase us all.”
Putin has been known for years as a ruthless leader, sparking debate among Russia experts about what motivates him.
Another aspect of Putin that remains a mystery to many is his private life.
He has always been eager to ensure his family are not subjects of media speculation.
Putin married Lyudmila Shkrebneva in 1983, with whom he has two daughters: Mariya Vorontsova and Yekaterina Tikhonova.
After Putin became president in 2000, Lyudmila served as the First Lady of Russia, but later revealed that she did not enjoy the attention this brought.
In June 2013, the couple announced they were to separate and the end of their marriage was confirmed in April the following year.
During their joint TV announcement, Putin said: “It was a joint decision: we hardly see each other, each of us has our own life.”
It is believed that Lyudmila remarried Artur Ocheretny just a year later.
Mr Ocheretny is around 20 years younger than his wife, according to the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
He had been working at the Centre for the Development of Interpersonal Communications, one of Lyudmila’s projects promoting Russian language and culture.
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His previous job was at a company called Art Show Centre, which organised parties for United Russia, Putin’s political party, and energy giant Gazprom.
There has been no confirmation of marriage certificates in Russia but she changed her name to Ocheretnaya on official documents and the pair have been photographed together.
However, the information has never been denied or confirmed by any of the involved parties.
In 2013, Irene Pietsch published a book titled ‘Fragile Friendships’, detailing her relationship with the Putins.
Ms Pietsch met Lyudmila in 1995 when Putin was deputy mayor of St Petersburg and his family was visiting Hamburg.
Ms Pietsch claimed in her book that Lyudmila branded her now ex-husband a “vampire”.
The Russian leader allegedly said that anyone who could put up with his ex-wife for three weeks “deserved a monument”.
As the Moscow Times also reported at the time, Lyudmila complained that her husband broke a promise to stay away from the world of spying when he agreed to head the Federal Security Service in July 1998.
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“It’s terrible,” Lyudmila allegedly said of Putin’s role, and even complained in a telephone call that turned out to be the last contact the two women ever had with each other.
According to Ms Pietsch, Lyudmila said: “We won’t be allowed to contact each other again.
“This awful isolation. No more travelling wherever we want to go; no longer able to say whatever we want. I had only just begun to live.”
Putin’s love life also became a subject of media speculation.
An investigation by Proekt Media published in November 2020 claimed that Putin has another daughter, born in 2003, with a woman called Svetlana Krivogikh.
Rumours also emerged in 2008 that he was romantically involved with gymnastic champion Alina Kabaeva.
She was a pro-Kremlin politician at the time, and despite persistent denials from the Russian Government, Ms Kabaeva has been branded the “secret First Lady”.
One Russian newspaper called her the “First Lady, but in the shadows.”
In April 2008, the Moskovsky Korrespondent reported that Putin had divorced Lyudmila and was engaged to marry Olympic gold medalist Ms Kabaeva.
The story was denied and the newspaper was shut down shortly after they ran with the story.
That year, Putin said: “I have a private life in which I do not permit interference. It must be respected.”
He hit out at “those who with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies prowl into others’ lives”.