A discussion in Swiss media about whether the country should ask Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend and their four children to leave Switzerland is becoming increasingly heated.
Several media commentators and lawmakers do not think Switzerland should provide a safe haven to the Russian president’s long-term girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva, and the couple’s four young children.
Kabaeva is reportedly staying in a “very secure and private” chalet just outside Lugano. Putin is known to have strong connections to the region, owning property and frequenting Lugano before the Ukraine invasion began.
Kabaeva left Russia at the start of the Ukraine war.
The 39-year old, an Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast, is believed to have four children with the 69-year old Russian president.
They have 7-year-old twin daughters, who were born in the Swiss city of Lugano in February 2015 and they are believed to also have two boys, although their ages or existence have never been formally confirmed. All four children hold Swiss citizenship.
Kabaeva is one of the most decorated gymnasts in rhythmic gymnastic history, with two Olympic medals, 14 World Championship medals and 21 European Championship medals.
Putin has never discussed his relationship or children in public.
In 2018 he reportedly said: “I have a private life in which I do not permit interference. It must be respected,” he once said. “I have always reacted negatively to those who with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies prowl into others’ lives.”
In addition to his four children with Kabaeva, Putinalso has two adult daughters, 36-year old Maria and Katerina (35), both from his first marriage to Lyudmila Shkrebneva, a former flight attendant.
Maria is married to a Dutch national, Jorrit Faassen, and lived in the Netherlands until recently. She is believed to have left Holland for her native Russia recently.
In 2008, Russian newspaper the Moskovsky Korrespondent ran a story reporting that Putin had divorced his wife and was living together with Kabaeva. The reports were denied by the Russian government and the newspaper was subsequently shut down.
The reports that Putin’s partner and children are staying in Switzerland come amid the country’s decision, last week, to break with its historic tradition of neutrality in global conflicts, in joining the UK and the European Union in freezing Russian assets.
The sanctions package involves freezing the personal assets of Putin, prime minister Mikhail Mishustin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
A number of Russian companies and banks have also been targeted.
Switzerland’s Federal Council has further joined the EU in closing airspace to aircrafts with Russian markings, and has begun sending relief supplies to Poland to help with settling Ukrainian refugees.
“Switzerland reaffirms its solidarity with Ukraine and its people,” the Council’s statement read last week.