Russian President Vladimir Putin has always been vigilant when it came to questions about his family.
In 2015, he dodged questions about his daughters’ identities during one of his marathon press conferences.
“My daughters live in Russia and only studied in Russia, I’m proud of them,” he says. “You are fluent in three foreign languages. I don’t talk to anyone about my family.”
“Every person has the right to their destiny, to live their own life and do it with dignity,” he adds.
One of his daughters targeted by American sanctions
He might not want to name her, but others have. The latest round of US sanctions targeted Maria Vorontsova, 36, and Katerina Tikhonova, 35.
“We believe many of Putin’s fortunes are hidden with members of his family, and that’s why we’re targeting them,” a US official said. Although little has been officially confirmed about President Putin’s family life, documents, media reports and occasional public statements are enough to paint a portrait of the couple.
Both women are the daughters of President Putin and his ex-wife Lyudmila. They married in 1983 when she was a flight attendant and he was a KGB officer. Their marriage lasted 30 years, while Putin quickly rose to the top of the Russian political system.
In 2013 they separated. Mr Putin said: “It was a joint decision: we hardly see each other, each of us has our own life”. She said he was “completely drowned in work”.
Her eldest, Maria Vorontsova, was born in 1985. She studied biology at St. Petersburg University and medicine at Moscow State University.
Ms. Vorontsova is now an academic specializing in the endocrine system. She is co-author of a book on child growth retardation and is listed as a researcher at the Moscow Center for Endocrinological Research.
She is also a business woman. BBC Russia identified her as a co-owner of a company planning to build a huge medical center.
Ms Vorontsova is married to Dutch businessman Jorrit Joost Faassen, who worked for Russian energy giant Gazprom, but they are said to have split.
People who have spoken to her since the invasion of Ukraine say she supports her father and have questioned international coverage of the conflict.
Katerina Tikhonova, the most present in public space
Compared to her sister, Katerina Tikhonova is much more visible in public spaces, thanks in particular to her talents as a rock and roll dancer. She and her partner finished fifth at an international event in 2013.
That same year she married Kirill Shamalov, the son of a longtime friend of President Putin. Their wedding took place in an exclusive ski resort near St. Petersburg. Workers at the scene said the couple arrived in a sleigh pulled by three white horses.
Mr Shamalov was sanctioned by the United States in 2018 for his role in Russia’s energy sector. The US Treasury Department said “her wealth improved dramatically after marriage”. The couple has since separated.
After the invasion of Ukraine, two Russian activists were arrested for occupying a luxury villa in Biarritz believed to belong to Mr Shamalov.
Ms. Tikhonova now works in science and in business. She made brief appearances on Russian state media to speak about neurotechnology in 2018 and also at a business forum in 2021. In both cases, no mention was made of her relationship with the President.
No woman would spend much time with President Putin.
Mr. Putin also has grandchildren. He mentioned them in a 2017 meeting, but didn’t say how many he had or which of his daughters they had.
“As for my grandchildren, one of them is already in kindergarten. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want them to grow up like some kind of royal prince. I want them to grow up like normal people,” he said.