Alexei Nikolsky / AFP - Getty Images file
Russia's President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila attend a service at Blagoveshchensky Cathedral in Moscow on May 7, 2012.
Standing awkwardly side by side, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila Putina announced Thursday their decision to divorce on Russian television.
Putin confirmed the two no longer live together.
“This is the case,” he said. “All my activity is to do with publicity, absolute publicity, and some people like this, and others do not. But there are some people who are absolutely incompatible with this ... Lyudmila Alexandrovna has stood by this post for eight or nine years - so it's a mutual decision.”
Lyudmila confirmed Putin’s words, adding: “Our marriage is over due to the fact that we no longer see each other.”
She also said she did not enjoy publicity or flying on planes.
Their appearance was filmed by the state-controlled television Russia24 as the two prepared to attend the ballet Esmeralda at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow.
Putin's private life has been shrouded in mystery. He has rarely been seen together with Lyudmila in recent years, and rumors have circulated that the first lady had moved to the Elizarova monastery. In 2008, Russian media reported that Putin was set to marry the former Olympic gold medalist gymnast, Alina Kabaeva. The two have also been rumored to have a child together.
Presidential Press Service / Itar-Tass via Reuters, file
Vladimir Putin smiles at gymnast Alina Kabaeva during a meeting with members of the Russian Olympic team in 2004.
Although neither Putin nor Kabaeva have confirmed these rumors, they have been seen and photographed together at public events. Kabaeva retired from sports and became a member of the Public Chamber of Russia – which drafts laws for the Russian parliament.
Putin’s private life has long been a no-go area for journalists, and some critics have raised concerns about how a man with so much authority could be trusted, when so little was known about him. Putin and Lyudmila have two daughters together, but almost nothing is known about them. Maria was born in 1985 and Ekaterina Putina in 1986 and both have been rumored to be living abroad, although in 2011 some photos of them surfaced online.
Putin said both his daughters had been educated in Russia, where they continue to live.
Putin, now in his third term, won the presidential election last year, a move followed by large anti-government demonstrations. There has since been a clampdown on the Russian opposition and demonstration participants, with critics viewing his new term as a return to old authoritarian tactics.