Britain sanctions Putin's inner circle, including rumored mistress Alina Kabaeva

·2-min read

LONDON — The U.K. has imposed a new round of sanctions that will ban travel and freeze the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s family and close friends — including his alleged mistress, Alina Kabaeva.

“We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the [vise] on his inner circle,” Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said in a statement on Friday.

The group includes Igor Putin, the president’s cousin, and Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, the former first lady of the Russian Federation and Putin’s ex-wife. Despite their divorce in 2014, the Foreign Office believes that Ocheretnaya benefited from “preferential business relationships with state-owned entities.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin hands flowers to Alina Kabaeva.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hands flowers to gymnast Alina Kabaeva at an award ceremony in 2001. (Sergei ChirikovAFP via Getty Images)

Among the sanctioned is Kabaeva — a retired Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast reportedly dubbed by Russian tabloids the “First Mistress” and “Secret First Lady” — whom the Foreign Office said is “alleged to have a close personal relationship with Putin.” In recent years, Kabaeva, who is rumored to have children with the Russian president, sat as the deputy in the Russian state assembly, the Duma, for Putin’s United Russia party. Her grandmother, Anna Zatseplina, has also been sanctioned.

The penalties also targeted the Kremlin leader’s loyal supporters and friends — many of whom have important positions within the government and financial institutions. They include Alexander Plekhov, a friend of Putin's; Mikhail Klishin, a top executive in Bank Rossiya; Vladimir Kolbin, the son of Putin’s childhood friend and alleged business associate Peter Kolbin; and Yuri Shamalov, the son of Nikolai Shamalov, who was sanctioned by Britain in 2014.

“Today’s sanctions will hit this cabal who owe Putin their wealth and power, and in turn support Putin and his war machine,” the Foreign Office report said.

Vladimir Putin and his then-wife, Lyudmila.
Putin and his then-wife, Lyudmila, in 2012. (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration has withheld Kabaeva from several rounds of sanctions since the start of the war. According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials decided to leave her out of the tough penalties over fears that including her would thwart efforts to negotiate an end to the invasion and would fuel tensions between Russia and the U.S. The Treasury Department said, however, that sanctions against Kabaeva aren’t off the table.

Following the announcement on Friday, Truss said on Twitter, “We’re ramping up the pressure on all those aiding and abetting Putin’s aggression until Ukraine prevails.”

So far the U.K. has sanctioned over 1,000 individuals and 100 entities since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The net global worth of those sanctioned is over $142 billion, according to the U.K.


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