- The US initially held off sanctioning Putin’s rumored girlfriend out of caution, the WSJ reported.
- Officials feared sanctioning Alina Kabaeva would be seen as too personal a punishment, the report said.
- Kabaeva, who has been connected to Putin since 2008, could still be sanctioned, the report said.
US officials paused proposals to sanction Alina Kabaeva, the rumored girlfriend of Russian President Vladimir Putin over fears it would be felt as too personal an escalation in US-Russia relations, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Kavbaeva, 38, is a potential target in upcoming sanctions. But in earlier deliberations, her sanctions package was put on hold at the last minute, The Journal reported, citing unnamed officials.
The US has issued sweeping sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals since Putin invaded Ukraine. On April 6, President Joe Biden’s administration announced sanctions on Putin’s family, including his adult daughters Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova.
Like Kabaeva, Tikhonova and Vorontsova are suspected of having a role in helping Putin stash his wealth outside of Russia.
But the US stayed its hand sanctioning Kabaeva as officials believed it would hit Putin too personally and could prompt an escalation in the conflict, The Journal reported.
She is rumored to have had at least two children with Putin, MailOnline reported. Both Putin and Kabaeva have long denied having a relationship.
Kabaeva, a former gymnast, media manager, and politician, has been connected with the Russian president since 2008, when Russian newspaper the Moskovsky Korrespondent reported that Putin was secretly engaged to her, according to Radio Free Europe. The paper shut down soon after the report, The New York Times reported.
She has won two Olympic medals, 14 World Championship medals, and 21 European Championship medals. After retiring from sport, she joined the Russian government as a pro-Putin State Duma Deputy until 2014.
Georgy Alburov, a Russian activist who works with jailed anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, called for Kabaeva to be sanctioned on April 6.
In her work as chair of the board of the state-owned Russia’s National Media Group, she is “literally fuelling this war,” Alburov tweeted.
On Saturday, Kabaeva made a rare public appearance, her first since the invasion of Ukraine. She was pictured at a festival organized in her name in Moscow’s VTB Arena, Newsweek reported.
Kabaeva is rumored to live in Switzerland. In late March, after Switzerland abandoned its neutral status to enact sanctions on Russia, a widely-circulated petition called on the Swiss government to deport her, the Independent reported.