In a rare appearance at the opening of a sports center, gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, 39, was photographed showing her support for Russia’s brutal ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Kabaeva was photographed at the event wearing a “Z” insignia brooch – a symbol that represents the word ‘victory’ and has become synonymous with Russia’s brutal army.
The insignia first came to international attention when it was seen painted on Russian military vehicles gathering on the Russian border with Ukraine in the weeks and days running up to the launch of its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24.
Bestowed with a range of high-paying and influential positions following her alleged relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kabaeva was a Member of the Russian Parliament, the State Duma, between 2007 and 2014.
In September 2014, she resigned from the Duma and – despite being criticized for a lack of experience – accepted the position of chair of the board of directors of the National Media Group, Russia’s largest media conglomerate.
It was during her time in the Duma, in 2008, that the Moskovsky Korrespondent reported that Kabaeva was engaged to Putin, leading to the Kremlin denying the claim and promptly banning the newspaper from continuing to operate.
In the years that followed, Kabaeva was photographed at numerous public events with the president.
She reportedly gave birth to two boys in Moscow, with a gynecologist who allegedly assisted at both births telling the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung in 2022 that Putin was the biological father to both sons. She has since been rumored to have given birth to at least a further two children, none of whom Putin has ever officially recognized.
The Olympic gymnast, who was disqualified in 2001 after being convicted of using the performance-enhancing drug furosemide, was sanctioned by the U.K. on May 13. This was in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and her “close relationship” with Putin. However, that hasn’t prevented Kabaeva from continuing to live a lavish lifestyle.
Already possessing an impressive property portfolio, in June, Kabaeva purchased two new luxury homes, one being a summer house in southern Turkey, and the other a home in Istanbul, according to British newspaper The Daily Mail.
According to Russian-born Israeli businessman Leonid Nevzlin, the properties were arranged in Turkey via a close aide of the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Nevzlin added that the Turkish president had allocated his own presidential guard to protect her at the new properties.
The latest reported purchases came amid evidence released by international media outlets showing that Kabaeva frequently uses a multi-million-dollar state-owned Falcon 7X to fly to her numerous luxurious properties.
Despite sources close to Putin denying he is in a relationship with her, Kabaeva continues to be lavished with opportunities, with Russian State TV promoting the “Festival Alina” event in May of this year, pitched as an “unforgettable celebration of music and sport”, and with Kabaeva fronting the entire affair.
“This gymnastics festival that is starting today in Russia seems to be crammed full of Putin’s favorite things,” Julia Davis, creator of the Russian Media Monitor, wrote on Twitter, “including an overabundance of Soviet nostalgia and his rumored mistress Alina Kabaeva, in whose honor this festival was named.”
Whilst social media users condemned her choice of brooch, others commented on her seemingly altered appearance, with the gymnast alleged to have undergone plastic surgery.
“Everyone noticed her appearance had changed,” The Daily Star reported one Twitter user as saying. “Alina clearly needs to do something with her plastic surgeons.”
“Dodgy plastic surgery!” said another, while one user wrote that “Attempts to narrow her naturally wide face have so far delivered questionable results. With each public appearance her face melts more and becomes more asymmetrical.”
Kabaeva attended the event with Alexei Miller, the head of major Russian gas company Gazprom, who also wore a ‘Z’ badge whilst posing for photographs.
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