Alina Kabaeva is gracing the January cover of Russian Vogue. Notable in her own right for being a Gold medalist and Russian parliamentarian, the spotlight instead is on her rumored affair with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Beyond being a current parliamentarian and former Olympian, she also the alleged mistress of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – a persistent rumor that got one unlucky Moscow newspaper shut down for repeating it, while also fueling an almost frantic buzz around her name in Moscow high society circles.
Ms. Kabaeva is one of Russia's most successful rhythmic gymnasts (see video below). She took part in six world championships and brought home an Olympic Gold medal in 2004.
After she retired in 2004, she was recruited by the ruling pro-Kremlin United Russia party and soon joined several other former Olympic champions in the ranks of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.
But it is her alleged relationship with Mr. Putin for which she is most known today, to the chagrin of political analysts who say that the only scandal worth talking about is the non-participatory nature of Russia's political system, which enables the United Russia party – which is headed by Putin – to co-opt youthful and inexperienced celebrities and vault them into parliament, without any training or even the need to campaign for their own election.
"They may be celebrities, but I can't see anything that these ex-athletes contribute to politics," says Sergei Mikheyev, director of the independent Center of Political Technologies in Moscow. "Alina Kabaeva was a famous gymnast, but she hasn't distinguished herself as a politician in any way."