Alina Kabaeva, the Olympic gymnast allegedly in a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was spotted wearing a brooch with a symbol that has become synonymous with showing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kabaeva, 39, made a rare public appearance to open a new gymnastics training center in Sochi. One photo taken from the event and shared on social media showed Putin’s alleged girlfriend wearing a black blazer with a “Z” insignia brooch, a symbol that has been associated with the Russian army.
Alexei Miller, the head of major Russian gas company Gazprom, accompanied Kabaeva at the opening ceremony. He was also spotted wearing a “Z” insignia at the event, according to The Kyiv Post.
The “Z” insignia gained international attention after it was seen painted on Russian military vehicles gathering near the Ukrainian border in the weeks leading up to the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
It is unclear when and how Kabaeva met Putin. However, rumors claimed that the Russian president secretly divorced his wife, Lyudmila Putin, to pursue a relationship with Kabaeva in 2008, The New York Times reported, citing an article in the Moscow newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent. The Moscow newspaper was owned by a former Soviet intelligence officer.
In 2007, Kabaeva entered Russian politics and was elected as a deputy in the State Duma. However, she left her position in September 2014 to chair the board of directors of the National Media Group, Russia’s largest media conglomerate, as per The Guardian. The outlet noted that Kabaeva did not have any experience in media management when she joined the media company.
Kabaeva has been photographed at numerous public events with Putin. However, neither of them has confirmed their long-rumored relationship. She had also allegedly given birth to four children – twin daughters and two sons – during her relationship with the Russian leader, according to Page Six.
In August, several Western countries placed sanctions on Kabaeva over Russia’s war in Ukraine due to her close relationship with Putin.
Since the war began in February, Kabaeva has yet to make any comments about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She also shunned any mention of the war during her most recent public appearance, The Daily Mail reported.