Woman said to be Putin's daughter appears on TV, breaking 20-year reporting taboo

 File photo of Katerina Tikhonova dancing with Ivan Klimov during the World Cup Rock'n'Roll Acrobatic Competition in Krakow.
File photo of Katerina Tikhonova dancing with Ivan Klimov during the World Cup Rock'n'Roll Acrobatic Competition in Krakow.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (NYTIMES) - 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 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 (Dec 6) 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 also suggests a potential public role for the presidential family, a fraught topic in Russian political culture since Soviet times, said Professor Nina Khrushcheva, a professor of international affairs at the New School in New York and a granddaughter of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, in a phone interview.

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".