Lyudmila Putin was married to Vladimir Putin for three decades. They met in Leningrad and were married in 1983, then moved to East Germany where Vladimir was a KGB spy. They returned to Russia after the Iron Curtain crumbled, and it’s then that Vladimir Putin began his quite amazing journey to becoming one of the most powerful men in the world.
– Gregory Grushko (@ggrushko) April 9, 2017
The Washington Post reported that, with Vladimir reigning in Moscow, his wife was rarely seen. Of course, there were rumors put out by the Russian press, suggesting that she had been sent to a monastery, but it was in June 2013, during the intermission of a Kremlin production of the ballet La Esmeralda, that the couple announced they were divorcing.
Since that time, Russians have heard very little about Putin’s ex-wife. There was no mention of her at all in Vladimir Putin’s biography, and his press secretary has steadfastly refused to answer any questions about her. However, many Russian citizens remained fascinated by her, eager to know what happened to the woman who was once very close to Vladimir Putin.
Today, four years later, the public is now hearing details about Lyudmila’s new life, and it appears that she now has a new husband 20-years younger than her, who will be sharing her life at a rather lavish European villa called Souzanna.
Last year, Lyudmila’s new relationship was revealed by the Russian news website, Sobesednik, when it revealed that 58-year-old Lyudmila had married Artur Ocheretny, then 37-years-old.
– Paulo Félix (@osint) April 10, 2017
Last Wednesday, the couple’s connection to the European villa was revealed when an article was published by the OCCRP (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) suggesting that Ocheretny is currently carrying out extensive renovations to a mini-palace worth up to $7.46 million in a village called Anglet. Anglet is near Biarritz in the southwest of France. Documents show that the villa was purchased six months after the Putins announced their divorce.
A reporter from the OCCRP spoke to a resident about the villa, apparently unaware that the legal owner is Artur Ocheretny.
“The buyer is Putin’s ex-wife, we all know this here.”
Those who know Lyudmila are glad to hear that her story has a happy ending because it’s understood that her long marriage to Vladimir wasn’t always a happy one. As a very sensitive woman, Lyudmila struggled with her rather harsh husband.
Nataliya Gevorkyan, Putin’s biographer, spoke to the Washington Post just before the announcement of their divorce.
“She was a woman who loved and was not loved.”
– Julie Birkmann (@juliebejulie) April 9, 2017
But now the purchase of the luxury villa in France is raising questions about how either Artur Ocheretny or his new wife were able to afford such an expensive property. Artur Ocheretny is the Director of the Center for the Development of Interpersonal Communications, a non-profit organization which is known to be closely linked to Lyudmila. Before this position, he worked with government clients at an event agency.
The OCCRP has pointed out that Russian NGO directors generally don’t receive high salaries and that none of Ocheretny’s business ventures appear to have been successful.
Putin’s own wealth declarations were minimal as at 2015: he had a salary of $147,000, limited assets, a Moscow apartment, three cars, and a plot of land. And Lyudmila herself is not officially wealthy either.
But, it has long been speculated that both Vladimir Putin and people closely connected to him are much wealthier than they declare. It has been estimated by some that Putin’s personal wealth is as high as $200 billion, although this is not backed by firm evidence.
A law firm based in Panama leaked records in 2016 suggesting that associates close to Putin held as much as $2 billion in offshore accounts. Just recently, opposition leader Alexei Navalny released a video accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of accepting over $1 million in bribes; allegations that sparked huge protests in Russian cities.
– 1 New York City (@1_NewYorkCity) April 6, 2017
News Australia reported that it was in 1980 that Vladimir Putin met his future wife through a mutual friend. At that time, Lyudmila Shkrebneva was a flight attendant for Aeroflot.
The couple married in July 1983, and by 1985 their first daughter, Maria, was born. Katarina, their second child, was born in Germany more than a year later, while Vladimir was working in Dresden at the local intelligence office. Following the collapse of the Iron Curtain, the couple returned to Russia, and it was then that Lyudmila kept a very low profile, causing the local media to speculate she had been sent to a monastery.
Usually one to protect his private life, Putin and his wife publicly announced their divorce. However, they worked very hard to ensure their adult daughters were kept out of the spotlight. It was in 2015 at a news conference at Moscow’s waterfront World Trade Center that Putin spoke about his daughters, explaining why he wanted them to be able to live private lives and adding that he was very proud of them.
“They studied only at Russian universities. I am proud of them. They continue to study and work. My daughters speak three European languages fluently. One of them can even speak one or two Oriental languages. They are making their first steps and are successful.”
– Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) April 5, 2017
The President then stated that would not be discussing his daughters any further.
“I never discuss questions related to my family. They are not involved in business or politics. They are not pushing for this.”
But Putin’s personal Kremlin biography reveals that both daughters were named in honor of their grandmothers and that both are very much loved by their father.
“Not all fathers are as loving with their children as he is. And he has always spoiled them.”
[Featured Image by Mikhail Metzel/AP Images]