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Vladimir Putin’s alleged lover has appeared at a patriotic-themed gymnastics ballet festival after recently emerging in public for the first time since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Alina Kabaeva, 38, was seen in footage captured at a performance with a uniformed military choir that included some of the Soviet Union’s most patriotic songs in a celebration of the country’s victory over the Nazis.
The ‘Z’ symbol, likened by critics to a Russian swastika invented for the war in Ukraine, also featured heavily at the event, most notably on media billboards Kabaeva stood in front of while speaking.
The theme at the annual Alina Festival - which will be broadcast in full on 8 May - was unmistakably intended to boost patriotic support for Putin’s military assault on Ukraine.
Kabaeva’s reappearance follows rumours she has been hiding in a Swiss chalet, or a Siberian nuclear bunker, since the start of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Wearing a bright pink dress and a patriotic St George’s ribbon across her chest, Kabaeva linked victory in the Second World War to today's events, saying: "This theme, you see, this story, doesn’t only go into the past. It stays with us.”
Kabaeva’s words resonate with Putin’s claim - denounced in the West - that his modern-day war is against ‘Nazis’ who dominate Ukraine.
Kabaeva went on: “This celebration is not just for the whole country, this is a holiday for every family.
“Every family has a war story. And we mustn’t ever forget it, but pass it on, from generation to generation.”
Girls of different ages took to the stage to perform dressed in a wartime uniform.
Reporting on Olympic gold medalist Kabaeva’s rare appearance, Russian Cosmopolitan said: “Alina Kabaeva is one of the most mysterious and secretive women in our country.
“The gymnast almost never appears in public, does not [appear in] social networks, and it is not possible to accidentally see her on the street or in shopping centres.”
Putin, 69, is expected to use the 9 May Victory Day to claim some kind of victory from his war in Ukraine, despite the fact the Russian death toll may now exceed 30,000.
Rumours first linked Kabaeva romantically to Putin back in 2008. The newspaper that printed the story was quickly closed down.
Putin - who in 2013 announced his divorce from wife Lyudmila, a former Aeroflot stewardess - has previously said: "I have a private life in which I do not permit interference. It must be respected.”
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