It’s all anyone’s talking about today, and rightly so. After months of escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine, it was reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered troops into two rebel-held regions in eastern Ukraine, after recognising them as independent states.
While Russia says the troops will be ‘peacekeeping’ in the regions, the US dubbed that ‘nonsense’ and accused Russia of creating a pretext for war. Now, the UK has issued a financial sanctions notice in an effort to deter Russia from further action. The UK government will freeze the assets of three individuals - Gennadiy Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg – and announced sanctions against five banks.
‘The [sanctions] were made under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 and provide for the freezing of funds and economic resources of certain persons, entities or bodies involved in destabilising Ukraine or undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine, or obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia,’ reads the government report – which you can read here.
Of course, the rapid increase in threat from Russia has made for some intense Googling. According to Google Trends, questions around Ukraine and Russia make up eight of the top 10 real-time search trends. Everyone wants to know the history behind this tension (it’s all about territory), what Russia wants from Ukraine (it says not to join NATO, but again… territory) and what’s going to happen next (that’s a question we can’t answer in brackets).
But the strangest search has come not from fear about the war, but we can only guess, the slight bit of shareable gossip in relation to this daunting story. That is, the woman claiming the be Vladimir Putin’s daughter that was once the focus of tabloid press.
‘Vladimir Putin's “Secret daughter” says she loves being in the “limelight” after her identity was revealed by opposition politicians,’ read a headline by the Daily Mail last year. Naturally, Google searches for ‘Vladimir Putin daughter’ has been rife ever since.
So, who is Vladimir Putin’s daughter?
Well, that’s the thing – no one knows if she actually is. Luiza Rozova - an 18-year-old also known as Elizaveta Krivonogikh – was said to be Putin’s ‘secret daughter’ after an investigation by journalist Andrey Zakharov, who broke the story about her for Proekt.Media.
When interviewed by him on social media app Clubhouse, Zakharov – who now works for the BBC Russian Service - asked Luiza: 'Have I caused you a bad trauma by my investigation?'
'Oh no, not at all,’ she replied. ‘My life was so stagnant, I am very grateful for the chance to be in the limelight, that people heard about my account. I'm not trying and never have to popularise myself. I am feeling very well indeed, don't worry about me. My life goes on, and all is well.'
The report in Proekt (which means Project) alleged that Luiza’s mother Svetlana Krivonogikh, 45, had been Putin's lover in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Thus, Luiza was their alleged lovechild as Putin was married to Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Ocheretnaya from 1983 to 2014.
Putin absolutely denies being Luiza’s father. When the story originally broke, his spokesperson said the allegations were ‘de facto unfounded’ and ‘not very convincing’. Alas, it all seems to be gossip and rumour for now.
Does Vladimir Putin have children?
From his marriage to former first lady Lyudmila, Putin has two daughters named Maria, 36, and Katerina, 35. Echoing the uncertainty around how many offspring our own Prime Minister has, the most common reported response to the question 'How many children does Vladimir Putin have?' is... 'At least two.' Yes, that is what his Wikipedia says.