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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Who and Where Is the Elusive Lyudmila Putin?




Where in the world is Lyudmila Putin?


Since Vladimir Putin became acting president on New Year's Eve, his wife has barely been seen and never heard. She has appeared in public less than half a dozen times - and then only briefly. Not once has she uttered a word.


"I have absolutely no impression of her at all because I've never seen her at all,'' said Yulia Nazarova, 30, a part-time seamstress. "Maybe that's the way it should be.''


In Sunday's inauguration ceremony, Lyudmila Putin was not on stage - much less at her husband's side - when he took the oath. She remained in the audience, standing next to Naina Yeltsin.


Lyudmila Putin, 42, is described as painfully shy, a consummate KGB wife who was trained to stay in the shadows and never, ever discuss her husband's business. A year ago, her husband was head of the KGB's main successor agency, the Federal Security Service, and her personal life was completely shrouded in secrecy.


It is still largely a subject of speculation. She has given only one interview, to three hand-picked journalists who compiled an "instant" biography of her husband before his election in March.


But that was then. Now her husband is one of the world's most powerful, and public, leaders. And Lyudmila Putin - a short, plump woman with a heart-shaped face and cropped blond hair - is unlikely to be able to keep herself completely out of public view.


She grew up as Lyudmila Alexandrovna Shkrebneva in the port city of Kaliningrad. She was 21 and working as a stewardess when she met Putin on a blind date during a three-day trip to Leningrad. They dated for about three years before marrying. During that time, Lyudmila gave up her job and enrolled in Leningrad State University, eventually earning a graduate degree in modern languages.


The couple married in 1983, and in 1985, they moved to Dresden, in what was then East Germany. Their first daughter, Masha, was born the same year, and a second daughter, Katya, was born a year later. The girls, now 15 and 13, attended a German-language school in Moscow until their father became acting president. Since then, they've been tutored at home.


Lyudmila Putin has said that her main job is to take care of her daughters. Still, she told the biographers, she doesn't mind attending receptions as long as she has someone to talk to, especially if she gets to wear nice clothes.


"Women always like to dress up,'' she said. "As for politics, it has never interested me at all. It's boring."


She has had her share of hardship. In 1994, she was seriously injured in a car accident, suffering a fractured skull and vertebrae, and underwent two years of rehabilitation. And in 1996, a new house that had taken six years to build burned to the ground just months after they moved in.