Russian president Vladimir Putin appears to be back at the Kremlin after a mysterious disappearance that had people wondering if the Russian leader might be seriously ill or at risk of a coup. But a Swiss newspaper says the Russian playboy was just in Lugano for the birth of his lovechild.
In an article titled Es ist ein Mädchen! or “It’s a Girl,” the paper Bilk claims that Putin and his alleged 32-year-old lover, Olympic gymnast Alina Kabayeva, welcomed their daughter at the private Santa Anna di Sorgeno clinic in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino on the Italian border—a favorite playground for wealthy Russians.
According to Il Messaggero newspaper, the daughter of former Italian prime minister and Putin BFF Silvio Berlusconi gave birth to Berlusconi’s grandson Edward there in 2009. Il Messaggero also reports that the baby girl is the third child Putin has sired with the former gymnast. The other two children were reportedly born in 2009 and 2012.
The Italian-language Swiss radio channel RSI is reporting that Putin reserved two rooms at the tony clinic—one for the new mother and another for their bodyguards. According to the Italian-language Swiss website Ticino News, Putin stayed with friends for the birth. They also point to a Twitter page linked to Kabayeva that seems to announce the birth though the Tweet would suggest the baby is a boy and the Swiss media say instead it is a girl.
The last time Putin was seen in public was March 5 when he received Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Moscow. He then cancelled a series of high-level meetings last week, including talks with Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. As rumors spread that Putin could have fallen ill, his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the leader was just overworked. “No need to worry, everything is alright,” he said, adding that the president’s grip was still so firm, “he could break hands with it.”
Other news outlets floated the idea that Putin’s absence could be the result of a bad plastic surgery. Forbes meanwhile reported that the killing of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov had created a rift within the chiefs of the Russian state security agency and Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechnya region, leaving Putin vulnerable to a coup.
But Belkovsky also noted that he spoke with a Kremlin insider who said Putin had a surgery in Switzerland and that he "feels torn" about the competing stories.
In late September last year, Kabayeva stopped working at the parliament and got a job of a chairman of the board of National Media Group, the Kremlin's main propaganda machine.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has said that the baby rumors “do not correspond to reality” but noted Kremlinologist Stanislav Belkovsky says he isn’t so sure. "I never believed that Putin and Kabayeva had a romantic story but so many people were trying to convince me that Putin was actually in love with her, that now I feel torn,” he says. “Especially, after I heard that she quit her work of a deputy at Duma, because she could not hide her pregnancy any longer and now we hear that she had a baby."
If the Swiss reports turn out to be true, the fact that the Russian strongman chose to be at his mistress’s side for the birth of their lovechild rather than in various talks at a time of considerable crises in Russia, shows a softer side of the heavy-handed leader.
With additional reporting by Anna Nemtsova