Kremlin won't say whether Putin's ex-wife has remarried

Putin and wife Lyudmila in a 2011 file photo.
Putin and wife Lyudmila in a 2011 file photo. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - The Kremlin on Tuesday refused to comment on a report that Vladimir Putin's ex-wife has remarried, as state media speculated it could pave the way for the president himself to wed again.

Questioned during a daily phone briefing, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov was coy on whether Lyudmila, 58, has indeed remarried, as a Russian weekly magazine reported last week.

"You know that Vladimir Vladimirovich and Lyudmila Alexandrovna are divorced, and therefore in this case I don't have the powers to say anything about Lyudmila Alexandrovna and her personal life," Peskov told journalists.

But the website of state television's rolling news channel Rossiya 24 launched a rare speculative discussion of Putin's personal life.

"After these reports, in the blogosphere suggestions appeared that possibly now we should await an announcement of Putin's wedding, too," it said.

Carefully controlled state media would be unlikely to reference reports that were untrue and denied by the Kremlin.

The television website also posted a video of Putin's 2014 phone-in session with the nation when he said: "I first need to give away my ex-wife Lyudmila Alexandrovna in marriage, then I'll think about myself."

Persistent rumours have romantically linked Putin, 63, to former Olympic rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva, 31 years his junior, although both have angrily denied a relationship.

A report by news weekly Sobesednik published last week found that a woman with the same name and date and place of birth as Lyudmila but the rare surname Ocheretnaya is registered as owning her sister's former apartment since September last year.

It said Ocheretnaya received a passport with that surname in February 2015.

The report linked Ocheretnaya to a man called Artur Ocheretny, a 37-year-old who runs a centre that trains people in communications skills. He did not answer written questions from Sobesednik.

The apartment was owned by Putin from 1995 to 1997 and then by his mother-in-law. Located in his hometown of Saint Petersburg, it is tiny for a highly placed official at 139 sqm.

The details of the property ownership were checked by the anti-corruption foundation of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, which confirmed they were correct.

"So she got married, excellent, I wish them love and harmony. We don't see any corruption here," Navalny wrote on his blog.

Putin married Lyudmila, a former airline stewardess, in 1983 and they have two daughters. They announced they were separating in 2013.

Lyudmila has not been seen in public since 2014, Sobesednik reported.