Putin Tells Russians They May Meet a New First Lady Someday

Putin Pressed on Prices, Wages, Economy in Annual Call-In
  • President says he may satisfy `curiosity' over personal life
  • Putin says he'd save Ukrainian, Turkish leaders from drowning

President Vladimir Putin said that he may satisfy curiosity about his love life someday when asked during his annual call-in show Thursday whether he’s prepared to present Russia with a new First Lady.

Putin, 63, who divorced his wife, Lyudmila, after three decades of marriage in 2013, said he’s “satisfied” with his personal life, responding to a woman from his hometown of St. Petersburg who asked if he’ll follow suit after reports that his former spouse had remarried.

Details of his private life “are not in the first order of importance, but maybe someday I will be able to satisfy your curiosity,” the president said. “Is there a need to push to the forefront questions that you are touching on? I honestly don’t know -- what if it impacts the exchange rate or the oil price?” he joked.

Putin, who’s been in power for more than 16 years, has tightly guarded his private life, and refused to discuss his daughter Katerina Tikhonova’s occupation when a reporter asked about her at his annual news conference in December. He ended years of speculation about marital problems when he and Lyudmila made a rare public appearance together at a ballet performance in the Kremlin to announce their divorce on state television.

Marriage, Drowning

The Kremlin, which has dismissed media stories that Putin is romantically involved with former Olympic gymnast Alina Kabayeva, 32, or has children with her, last year denied a Swiss report that Kabayeva had given birth to a child fathered by Putin in Switzerland. The owners of Moskovskiy Korrespondent shut the tabloid in 2008 after it reported that Putin had divorced his wife and was planning to marry Kabayeva.

Lyudmila, 58, a former flight attendant, has remarried a man 20 years her junior, Russian media reported in January. Asked during his 2014 call-in when Russia would see a new First Lady, Putin replied that he’d “need to marry off my ex-wife” and “then I’ll think about myself.”

While many questions during Putin’s 14th call-in show touched on serious issues such as living standards, the economy and foreign policy, a boy provoked laughter when he asked if the Russian leader would rescue Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko or Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if they were drowning. Ties with the two leaders are extremely strained after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and Turkish jets shot down a Russian fighter near the Syrian border in November.

“Varya, you are putting me in an awkward position,” Putin said. “If someone decides to drown, you can’t save them.” Russia’s ready to “extend a helping hand and one of friendship to our partners if they want it,” he added.

There’s a history to this question. During his 2014 call-in, Putin described U.S. President Barack Obama as a “decent and brave man” who would save him from drowning, even as the two leaders failed to form a “very close” personal relationship.

“I absolutely would save Mr. Putin if he were drowning,” Obama told reporters a week later during a visit to South Korea. “I used to be a pretty good swimmer. I grew up in Hawaii.”

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