UK sanctions target Vladimir Putin's 'shady' personal network including alleged girlfriend

Vladimir Putin's lifestyle is said to be paid for by a cabal of family, friends and elites. Credit: AP

The alleged girlfriend, ex-wife and family members of Russian president Vladimir Putin have been added to the ever-growing UK sanctions list designed to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

The Foreign Office announced that seven of Putin's family members and five financiers would be targeted with travel bans and asset freezes, as they were part of a "shady network" supporting his lavish lifestyle.

Those sanctioned include Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, Putin’s ex wife, Alina Kabaeva, a retired Olympic gymnast believed to be the Russian leader's current partner, and Anna Zatseplina, Ms Kabaeva’s grandmother.

Vladimir Putin speaks with gymnast Alina Kabaeva as he hosts Russia's Olympic athletes in Moscow in 2004. Credit: AP

Igor Putin, a first cousin of the leader and director of Pechenga International Sea Port, has also been targeted, along with Mikhail Putin, another businessman and relative who is deputy chairman of the management board of energy giant Gazprom.

Putin is thought to have an enormous personal wealth, as he is linked to a £566 million yacht and a $1 billion palace named after him.

But despite this, Putin’s official assets are modest, according to the Foreign Office, with his lifestyle “funded by a cabal of family, friends and elites”. “We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle," Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said as she announced the new economic measures. “We will keep going with sanctions on all those aiding and abetting Putin’s aggression until Ukraine prevails.”

As the war continues into its 11th week, Ms Truss has urged a meeting of G7 foreign ministers to maintain sanctions against Russia until it has fully withdrawn from Ukraine.

One of the most high-profile figures on the list is Ms Kabaeva, who a UK official described as having a “close personal relationship” with Putin, a former KGB officer. Reports suggest the 2004 Athens gold medallist has been engaged to the 69-year-old Russian leader and has had his children.

She has risen to become chair of the board of the National Media Group, reportedly the largest private Russian media company.

Official records list the Kremlin leader’s assets as being fairly unnoteworthy, including a small flat in St Petersburg, two Soviet-era cars from the 1950s, a trailer, and a small garage. However, UK aides said that in reality he relies on his “wallet” of family, childhood friends, along with a hand-picked set of elites, who have benefited from his rule and in turn support his lifestyle.

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The reward for such people is influence over the affairs of the Russian state that goes far beyond their formal positions, the Foreign Office said.

Since her divorce from the president in 2014, Ms Ocheretnaya has benefited from “preferential business relationships with state-owned entities”, officials said.

The sanctions list, which has been growing since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, has frozen the assets and placed UK travel bans on more than 1,000 individuals and 100 entities.

The most high-profile measures so far have sought to target wealthy Russian individuals with links to the UK, notably Roman Abramovich, the billionaire Chelsea football club owner.

Under the measures imposed in early March, Abramovich was among seven wealthy Russians who had their UK assets frozen, with a ban on them travelling to Britain.