MOSCOW (AFP) ― Vladimir Putin’s wife Monday made a rare joint appearance with her husband as she became the new Russian First Lady, watching his inauguration and then standing by his side at a Kremlin prayer service.
Lyudmila Putina, who was last seen with Vladimir Putin at a polling station in March, stood beside him wearing a white headscarf draped over her hair as demanded by Russian Orthodox tradition.
Earlier, she watched the glittering inauguration ceremony and stood by as her husband reviewed the presidential guard regiment. In an unusual public display of affection, Putin went up to his wife at the end, lightly hugging her and kissing her on either cheek.
|Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila (AP-Yonhap News)|
He then spoke to her for a few seconds, pointing his finger at her, as she looked down, television footage showed. It was not clear what words were exchanged.
Putina is not expected to play a major role in public life during her husband’s new term as president.
Putin said in an interview with foreign newspaper editors in March that Lyudmila Putina is not a “public person and does not want that publicity,” and she often appeared uncomfortable in the media spotlight.
That contrasted with outgoing First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva, who made a point of wearing Russian couture and appeared at televised pop concerts as well as founding a national Day to celebrate Family, Love and Fidelity.
In 2010 Putin and his wife appeared on television giving their personal details for a national census and the fact that Lyudmila Putina was not wearing a wedding ring attracted speculation, although both declared themselves “married.”
Rumors have swirled for years about Putin, with a Moscow newspaper reporting in 2008 that he was about to marry Olympic gymnast turned legislator Alina Kabayeva, 31 years his junior. It closed shortly aterwards.
Putin has chosen to keep his private life extremely hidden and the Russian public knows only that he and Lyudmila have two daughters, with no up-to-date photographs of them released.