Russian Vogue’s new editor-in-chief has sparked controversy by revealing that her first cover star is Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s alleged mistress.
Alina Kabayeva will appear on the front of the issue, and Viktoria Davydova has set tongues wagging in the fashion world – and beyond – with her direction.
Though the rumours of Mr Putin’s relationship with former Olympic gold medallist have been strenuously denied, Mrs Davydova has cheekily placed the main cover headline, ‘Her Main Victory,’ between Miss Kabayeva’s legs.
Golden girl: Alina Kabayeva, the alleged mistress of Vladimir Putin, is the cover star of Russian Vogue’s January edition
The 27-year-old, who won a broze medal in the rhythmic gymnastics at the Sydney Games in 2000 and bettered it with gold four years later at Athens, is alleged to have mothered Mr Putin’s lovechild.
In a further fashion controversy, the former editor of Russia’s Tatler photographed Miss Kabayeva in a £21,000 gold Balmain dress, which has already featured on many other fashion magazine covers this year.
Miss Kabayeva, who also collected 18 world championship and 25 European championship medals before she hung up her hoop, ribbon, clubs and ball for good in 2008, became a Russian national heroine after unexpectedly failing in Australia ten years ago.
Look of love? Mr Putin is shown admiring former gymnast Alina Kabayeva in 2008 – the year that they were rumoured to have arranged to get married
The odds-on favourite was on course to win the gold medal, but losing control of the hoop (which you can watch below) meant that she dropped valuable points and had to settle for third place.
Mr Putin allegedly sought to comfort her and demanded an audience with the then-17-year-old.
Heroine: The 27-year-old old has won a bronze and gold Olympic medal and dozens of world and European championships
Two years ago, in April 2008, Russian newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent reported that Miss Kabayeva was engaged to marry Mr Putin in mid-June that year, after he had relinquished his role as president.
The story had come from a St Petersburg-based wedding planner who had been bidding to conduct the wedding reception.
However, later that April Mr Putin addressed the article in a press conference with Silvio Berlusconi, and said: ‘There is not a single word of truth.’
While Putin had been abroad and unavailable for comment when the story broke, Miss Kabayeva’s spokesman had already refused to discuss ‘this nonsense’.
Mysteriously the tabloid paper was closed down soon afterwards and Miss Kabayeva became one of a number of attractive ballet dancers and athletes to be fast-tracked by Mr Putin through the ranks of his party and into Russia’s State Duma, or lower house of parliament.
Miss Kabayeva gave birth to a boy last year, and the father has not been identified.
One of her close friends and former rhythmic gymnastics coach, Irina Viner – wife of oligarch and Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov – has indicated she knew the identity of the father.
She said: ‘When Alina finds the right time, she will say it herself. I’m just happy for her.’
Happy? Mr Putin shown last year on a rare public outing with his wife, Lyudmila, who he married in 1983 – the same year that Miss Kabayeva was born
And the Kremlin has tried to explain Mr Putin’s infrequent public appearances with his wife, Kaliningrad-born Lyudmila Shkrebneva, as the consequence of the prime minister’s ‘immense workload’.
The 58-year-old married his wife in 1983 – the year that Miss Kabayeva was born – and Reuters reported in October: ‘The Putins have only rarely been seen in public in recent years.
‘[A fact that has raised] media speculation that they had secretly divorced and that Putin planned to marry Olympic champion gymnast Alina Kabayeva.’