Who are Vladimir Putin’s daughters? What we know about the charmed lives of Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova

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·5-min read
Who are Vladimir Putin’s daughters? What we know about the charmed lives of Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova
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After scratching their collective heads about how best to hamper the Russian war effort the West came up with a key strategy: sanctions.

Along with key oligarchs, their sights were set on two targets: Vladimir Putin’s daughters. Maria Vorontsova, 36, and Katerina Tikhonova, 35, saw their European assets frozen and bank accounts suspended. And now, the Russian president’s progeny have been slapped with a second set of restraints, this time by their own father.

Reports emerged that scientist Maria’s plans to celebrate her 37th birthday on a beach in a “friendly” country with boyfriend Yevgeny Nagorny, 33, were scuppered by Putin. According to the Russian General SVR Telegram channel, which claims to have insider knowledge of the Kremlin, after getting wind of his eldest child’s holiday itinerary, Putin responded by banning her from leaving the country and doubling her security outfit. According to the Russian channel, the president suspected his daughter was using her holiday as a ruse to flee the country and never come back.

Maria Vorontsova and Yevgeny Nagorny at a friends wedding in 2019 in Salerno, Italy (Roma Khlyustov/CelebrateIt)
Maria Vorontsova and Yevgeny Nagorny at a friends wedding in 2019 in Salerno, Italy (Roma Khlyustov/CelebrateIt)

Unable to fly in or out of Russia, Putin’s daughters are stuck between a rock and hard place, but who are the mysterious Katerina and Maria and where do their allegiances lie?

On the surface, both the Russian strongman’s daughters have led seemingly “normal” lives. Although their whereabouts are currently unknown, both girls were educated in the German city of Dresden, where Putin was stationed while working for the KGB, and have excelled in their chosen professions; Katerina is an paediatric endocrinologist with an interest in dwarfism and Maria is the head of the Moscow State University AI institute.

Despite their white collar work, Putin’s daughters with ex-wife and former air stewardess Ludmila Putina, have undoubtedly benefited from their presidential connections. Having completed their secondary education at the German School in Moscow, both girls went on to study in St Petersburg State University under fake names, where its rector Lyudmila Verbitskaya is a close personal friend of Putin. Maria studied biology before graduating with a degree in medicine at Moscow State University. While her younger sister Katerina, studied Japanese history before completing a Masters degree in Mathematics and Physics also from Moscow State.

Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova, 35 (Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova, 35 (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

But their lives are not all work and no play, during her studies Katerina developed a passion for acrobatic rock’n’roll, an unusual form of dance involving stunts and gymnastics. She even went on to compete in several competitions, including the 2013 world championship, where she came fifth place. Conveniently, after Katerina became involved in the sport, the municipal government funded the erection of a £24 million state-of-the-art centre for acrobatic rock’n’roll in Moscow, which boasts a helipad and swimming pool. Speaking to Reuters about the project, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any government involvement, claiming that it “does not have any relation to us”.

Since her somersaulting days, Katerina has ditched her leotard in favour of more cerebral pursuits, landing a job as director of Innpraktika, a $1.7 billion project to create a science center at Moscow State University, before being appointed as head of the university’s AI institute in 2020. Meanwhile, Maria completed a PHD in endocrinology at Moscow State University and is a co-owner of a Russian private healthcare investment company called Nomenko.

But it’s not just their careers that have gone swimmingly. Both daughters went on to make lucrative marriages. Maria married Dutch businessman Jorrit Faassen in 2013, living with him in a penthouse in Voorschoten in western Holland, before moving back to Moscow in 2014. The couple, who are now divorced, were driven out of Holland after Dutch residents called for their expulsion following the downing of Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH17, which killed several Dutch residents and was widely suspected to be the work of the Kremlin.

Putin allegedly blocked his daughter from leaving the country reports stated (TV channel  Doctor)
Putin allegedly blocked his daughter from leaving the country reports stated (TV channel Doctor)

Faassen, who now works for the Russian energy company Gazprom, seems to have ingratiated himself with his powerful ex father-in-law. During a driving incident in Moscow in 2010, Faassen got into an altercation with Russian banker Matvei Urin, who, unaware of his links to Putin, ordered his bodyguards to beat up the Dutch businessmen. Soon after the incident, Urin was arrested and jailed for six years, with all six of his banks declared bankrupt.

Katerina, on the other hand, married the billionaire son of one of Putin’s close friends’, Kirill Shamalov. The 2013 society wedding took place at the Russian ski resort Igora, with guests in attendance sworn to secrecy. A year after the wedding, Putin’s great friend and Katerina’s new father-in-law, Nikolai Shamalov received a 17 per cent stake in Russia’s biggest petrochemicals company Sibur.

Although Katerina and Shamalov jr. split in 2018, according to Bloomberg the pair are worth around $2 billion and their joint assets include a £2.8 million holiday home in Biarritz, which was taken over by pro-Ukrainian squatters following the Russian invasion.

It is not known what either of Putin’s daughters think of the war with Ukraine, but it could be speculated that Maria’s alleged plans to permanently leave the country with her eight-year old son by Faassen perhaps suggests a lack of complete cooperation. Some of the Russian “friendly” country’s that Maria could have visited include Argentina, South Africa and Peru.

The sanctioning of Putin’s daughters comes after several other high profile Russian oligarchs have had their assets frozen by the EU and UK in the last few months, including notorious Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, Andrej Kostin, the Chairman of Russia’s VTB bank and Putin’s right-hand man Igor Sechin.

Meanwhile Zelensky has repeatedly called on EU states and the US to impose a blanket ban on Russian oil and coal, stressing that he "cannot tolerate any indecisiveness" from the West.

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