Woman said to be Putin's daughter appears on TV

Ms Katerina Tikhonova appeared on state television last Thursday to talk about her work as director of a scientific institute.
Ms Katerina Tikhonova appeared on state television last Thursday to talk about her work as director of a scientific institute.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW • A nearly 20-year taboo on reporting in the Russian news media about President Vladimir Putin's personal life has unravelled - just a little - with an interview broadcast on state television with a woman who has been described as his daughter.

The interview suggested some softening of Mr Putin's steely image and the prospect that his two adult daughters may be easing into public life.

Russia has no enduring tradition of a public first family, and Soviet and post-Soviet leaders have taken various approaches. Mr Putin, a former spy, has mostly kept his daughters out of sight.

He has occasionally spoken with affection of his daughters, and last year announced that he was a grandfather.

Still, throughout his tenure Mr Putin has insisted that his family life remain private - even as state television has lavished coverage on his leisure time spent alone in the Siberian outdoors, hiking or horseback riding, sometimes shirtless.

Vedomosti, a Russian newspaper, reported that the interview, which aired last Thursday and was rebroadcast last Friday, was the first with the woman, Ms Katerina Tikhonova.

She has been widely reported by Russian and Western news media to be the President's younger daughter, though Mr Putin has never publicly acknowledged her as such.

On the show, Ms Tikhonova was asked about her work as director of a scientific institute. The show profiled a group of scientists developing devices that read brainwaves.

The coverage, as fawning as that accorded to Mr Putin, portrayed the research as groundbreaking and vital for Russian technology, suggesting an emerging role for Ms Tikhonova as a champion of Russian science.

Her appearance on state television suggests a potential public role for the presidential family, a fraught topic in Russian political culture since Soviet times, said Dr Nina Khrushcheva, a professor of international affairs at The New School in New York and a granddaughter of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

The Kremlin has declined to comment on Ms Tikhonova's identity.

During the television show, she was identified as "director of Innopraktika and deputy director of the Institute of Mathematical Study of Complex Systems at Moscow State University".

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2018, with the headline 'Woman said to be Putin's daughter appears on TV'. Print Edition | Subscribe