Alina Kabaeva, the retired Olympic gymnast, who is believed to be Russian President Vladimir Putin's mistress, was seen in public and delivered a speech where she linked Russia's invasion of Ukraine with Sovi8t victory over Nazism in the World War II. Kabaeva, 38, made the comments at patriotic rhythmic gymnastics festival in Moscow, which is being hosted by her.
The former gymnast, who is supposed to be Putin's lover and mother of four of his children whom he has never formally recognized, made the comments at a rare public appearance. This also puts an end to speculation that Kabaeva is in the hiding in a Swiss chalet following Russia's invasion of Europe.
Kabaeva was seen for the first time on stage to lead her annual 'Alina Festival' at the VTB Arena in Moscow. She gave a press interview in which she appeared to relate the Soviet victory over Nazism in WWII to today's events in Ukraine.
Kabaeva gave a stirring speech while wearing a patriotic St George's ribbon on her chest. "This theme, you see, this story, doesn't only go into the past. It stays with us," she said linking the two events.
"This celebration is not just for the whole country, this is a holiday for every family. Every family has a war story, and we mustn't ever forget it, but pass it on from generation to generation," she said.
The theme of her eponymous festival was plainly designed to increase support for Putin's "special military operation" in Ukraine, which featured some of the Soviet Union's most patriotic songs in a celebration of the country's victory against the Nazis.
She was joined by hundreds of young children onstage at the patriotic celebration, which included a military chorus and the controversial Russian 'Z' symbol, which has become synonymous with the conflict in Ukraine.
Putin's True Companion
Her appearance at the festival put paid to rumors that she was hiding in Switzerland or a bunker in Siberia. Kabaeva, unlike two of Putin's older daughters, Maria and Katerina, has so far escaped Western sanctions.
On an estimated income of about $10 million per year, the former gymnast is also a media magnate, controlling a substantial portion of the pro-Kremlin Moscow media.
Alexei Navalny, the jailed Putin adversary, has urged sanctions against her, claiming that Kabaeva's National Media Group is likely controlled and funded by Putin and his billionaires.
Navalny recently posted from jail: "I want to remind you that the National Media Group, which owns the lion's share of this apparatus of lies, undoubtedly belongs to Putin personally, and as such is even formally headed by Putin's mistress Alina Kabaeva."
The news comes as the Wall Street Journal reported that Kabaeva escaped penalties at the urging of the US National Security Council, fearing that targeting her would be perceived as a "personal hit" on Putin.
In the aftermath of the Russian strongman's invasion of Ukraine in February, Kabaeva was targeted by the US Treasury Department, but officials in Washington feared that penalizing her would exacerbate tensions between Russia and the West.
Meanwhile, photos of Kabaeva taken during preparations for the Alina Festival last week fueled speculation that the former gymnast had received botox and fillers from the same cosmetic surgeon as Putin.
Despite a Russian death toll of over 20,000, Putin, 69, is expected to use Victory Day, May 9, to claim some form of victory in his war in Ukraine.
On the eve of Victory Day, performances at the Alina Festival are likely to be shown on state television. Despite a Russian death toll of over 20,000, Putin, 69, is expected to use Victory Day, May 9, to claim some form of victory in his war in Ukraine.