The Russian gymnast believed to be Vladimir Putin’s lover says she was with her “ideal man” in an unearthed interview.
Alina Kabaeva and the Russian president have never admitted to being romantically involved, despite persistent allegations since 2008 when a Moscow-based newspaper first reported the romance.
That year, it appears Ms Kabaeva, a celebrated athlete, did once publicly speak about her relationship without naming the president.
In the 2008 video, first reported by the Mail Online, Ms Kabaeva, who was 24-years-old at the time, takes questions from an audience of young Russians.
Four years earlier, she had won a gold medal at the Athens Olympics, a victory that made her one of the most famous people in Russia.
“Have you met your ideal man?” a young boy asked her during the audience-led interview.
Ms Kabaeva pauses for a few seconds, swivels in her chair and plays with a pen before declaring: “I have met him.” She giggles before saying that she was “so happy”.
Another girl asks who the mystery boyfriend is.
“A man, a very good man, a great man,’ Ms Kabaeva said, adding: “I love him very much.”
In 2008, Putin was still married to his first wife, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya. They didn’t divorce for another six years.
In the video with the young Russians, Ms Kabaeva was also asked if she would ever steal a married man away from his wife and family.
“If a man is already looking at another woman and is already talking to her then the problem in the family has already happened,” she says. “In that case, there can be no good in that family.”
Asked about the last gift she gave her mystery man was, Ms Kabaeva said: “An Alaska coat, a coat with fur, very beautiful”.
This week, The Project, a Russian opposition media outlet, reported that Ms Kabaeva, now 39, and Mr Putin, 70, lived together in a secret palace with their children on the shores of Lake Valdai, 250 miles north-west of Moscow.
After retiring from gymnastics in 2006, Ms Kabaeva became an MP for Putin’s United Russia party before becoming a director at a private media company.
The National Media Group is the largest private media company in Russia and helps the Kremlin project its propaganda, including its insistence that it is fighting Nazis in Ukraine.
Last year, Ms Kabaeva hosted several rallies and speaking engagements in support of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The grounds of the lakeside palace where Ms Kabaeva and Putin are thought to live contain several buildings, including a large mock Russian dacha, a swimming pool and a sauna. Photos of the interior showed a glass-topped dining room table set in a round room and surrounded by golden armchairs.
The Project also documented how Putin had allegedly created a £100 million property empire for his lover through a network of companies based in Cyprus.
In May, Britain placed sanctions on Ms Kabaeva because of what the Foreign Office called her “close personal relationship” with Putin.