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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In the Spotlight

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This week, the Russian tabloids have been discussing the former rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva, who has definitely not just given birth to a baby with steely blue eyes.

In a strange little story, Express Gazeta reported on May 18 that Kabayeva, 26, had given birth to a child. The story disappeared from its web site hours later, Kompromat.ru wrote, publishing a Google screen shot and a transcript of the article.

Probably no one would have been particularly interested if it were not for a story last year in Moskovsky Korrespondent newspaper, which alleged that then-President Vladimir Putin had left his wife and was going to marry Kabayeva.

The story in the newspaper owned by businessman Alexander Lebedev was denied by both parties. Putin criticized reporters with their "snotty noses and erotic fantasies." The newspaper promptly stopped production and closed in November after a brief revival.

Kabayeva gave up twirling ribbons to become a State Duma Deputy in 2007. She is a member of United Russia, which is led by Putin.

On Wednesday she wrote a denial on her LiveJournal blog, saying she was grateful for all the "warm words and wishes" but that she would announce publicly when she really had a baby.

The baby story was picked up by the Daily Mail in Britain and by Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau.

Ukrainian website Rupor.Info went the whole hog, writing that, "according to Russian sources, the father of the child is none other than Prime Minister Vladimir Putin."

Russian newspapers have largely given it a miss, however.

Komsomolskaya Pravda only wrote about Kabayeva's blog entry. Meanwhile, Tvoi Den, which usually has its finger on the trigger first for sex scandals, has completely ignored the story.

Conspiracy theorists have been going wild over why Putin rarely appears in public with his wife, Lyudmila.

Radio Liberty even did a special show on the topic on May 19, saying Lyudmila has been photographed with her husband only twice since June last year.

"Is the Russian prime minister still married to Lyudmila Putina? If he's married, why hasn't he taken her on official trips for two years? Why have they stopped showing her on television?" asked the host, Yelena Rykovtseva.

Just a few days later Putin made a public appearance with his wife Lyudmila for a meeting with Patriarch Kirill that was widely photographed.

The Kabayeva pregnancy rumor first surfaced in the classily named Zhyoltya Gazeta, or Yellow Newspaper, in August last year. It wrote that Kabayeva pulled out of an ice skating television show because she was pregnant. That was more than nine months ago, however.

Russian papers have linked Kabayava to several men. Express-Gazeta suggested that the baby's father could be Kabayeva's ex-boyfriend, a policeman named David Museliani, or footballer Philippe Senderos.

Meanwhile, Izvestia published a photograph taken on Tuesday that showed her wearing a cocktail dress with quite a few disguising pleats around the midriff area. However, there was no sign of the bags under the eyes that you would expect from a new mother.