Vladimir Putin‘s rumoured gymnast lover is now earning more than £7.5million a year as the boss of a pro-Kremlin media giant, according to leaked tax records.
Alina Kabaeva is paid via billionaire Yury Kovalchuk, an oligarch close to Putin who is a shareholder of the National Media Group which she chairs, according to investigative outlet The Insider.
Dubbed ‘Russia‘s most flexible woman’, she allegedly first met Putin in 2001 when she was an 18-year-old gymnast, but the Kremlin has always denied claims of a relationship.
Last month, a friend claimed she had cut off contact with friends and was living quietly after reportedly giving birth to twins.
Kabaeva, a 2004 Olympic gold medallist and later became a pro-Putin member of parliament, but since appears to have vanished from public view.
However, The Insider reported she now earns ‘dozens of times more’ in her media role.
‘The National Media Group does not publish annual reports showing directors’ remuneration,’ said the anti-corruption publication.
‘The company has never answered media queries about it. Therefore, Alina Kabaeva’s income was unknown. Until now.
‘According to the leaked Federal Tax Service’s database, the ex-sportswoman’s official income in the National Media Group (NMG) was 785.4million roubles (£7.78million).’
National Media Group owns shares in a range of major Russian outlets including REN TV, Channel 1, STS TV, 5th Channel, Izvestia and Sport Express, which are also subsidised by the state.
Her salary compares with former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder who earns £457,000 a year as chairman of Russian energy giant Rosneft, said the report.
Members of Gazprom’s management committee are said to earn £1.09million on average, hugely less than high-paid Kabaeva.
The publication said: ‘How did it happen that the gymnast with experience of working with a ball and a hoop became the head of Russia’s largest media holding?
‘Why does the company of the president’s ex partner pay cosmic sums to Kabaeva? ‘What’s the connection between Kabaeva and Putin?
‘The gymnast’s inner circle is constantly faced with unexplained generosity of various successful people.
The average salary in Russia is £5,867 a year.
The Kremlin has denied claims of a secret relationship between Putin and Kabaeva, who were initially linked romantically in 2008 in a newspaper owned by Alexander Lebedev.
Putin divorced his wife Lyudmila in 2014, but his private life is scarcely mentioned by most of the Russian media, with little known about his family or friends.
Putin has previously said: ‘I have a private life in which I do not permit interference. It must be respected.’
He deplored ‘those who with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies prowl into others’ lives’.
During her heyday in the 2000s, Kabaeva was part of an extremely successful trio of Russian gymnasts, along with Lyasan Utiasheva and Irina Chashchina.
The three friends won multiple medals but are no longer in close contact because Kabaeva and Chashchina prefer to live quietly, Utiasheva told Infox.ru.
Kabaeva’s former team mate says that every time she visits her mother’s grave there are flowers with a card saying: ‘With love from Alina’.
Utiasheva said she knows for certain the flowers are from Kabaeva because she doesn’t know anyone else named Alina.
While the pair now see each other only very rarely, Utiasheva said she knows she could call Kabaeva if she ever needed to and doesn’t begrudge her decision to shy away from contact.
‘If a person decides to lead a life that is closed from the eyes of society, this choice must be respected,’ Utiasheva said.