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New sanctions put Putin's intensely private daughters in spotlight

New sanctions put Putin's intensely private daughters in spotlight
Russian President Vladimir Putin has always been very private about his children, never appearing with them in public or speaking their names to the press. File Photo by Abir Sultan/UPI | License Photo

April 6 (UPI) -- New sanctions announced Wednesday by the Biden administration targeted Russian President Vladimir Putin's two adult daughters, both of whom he's been careful to keep out of the spotlight since taking power two decades ago.

The Treasury Department named Katerina Tikhonova, 35, and Maria Vorontsova, 36, in its latest round of economic sanctions, which also targeted Russian banks and other individuals.

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The Biden administration accused the two women of working in support of the Russian government. But with both women largely staying out of the public eye and Putin, himself, remaining intensely quiet about his family, little is known about the sisters.

The Treasury Department said Tikhonova's work as a tech executive supports the Russian government and defense industry. Vorontsova, meanwhile, is a pediatric endocrinologist who leads government-funded programs personally overseen by Putin.

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The new sanctions cut off the women from the U.S. banking system and freeze their U.S. assets, with an eye toward keeping Putin from accessing any of his own assets he may have in their names. The Treasury Department didn't offer details on any specific U.S. assets they may have so it's unclear how deeply the sanctions may affect them or their father.

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Putin shares Tikhonova and Vorontsova with his former wife, Lyudmila Shkrebneva. Putin and Shkrebneva divorced in 2014 after more than three decades of marriage. Putin is rumored to have children as young as 3 with other women, but Tikhonova and Vorontsova are the only ones he's publicly acknowledged -- even if not by name.

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In 2020, Russia's state-run Tass news agency reported that Putin doesn't like to discuss his family life due to security concerns and to allow his children to live normal lives. During a 2015 news conference, however, he spoke of the two women briefly.

"They live in Russia ... they have never been educated anywhere except Russia," he said, according to RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty.

"I am proud of them, they continue to study and are working. My daughters speak three European languages fluently. ... They do not just speak them, but use them in their work. They are taking the first steps in their careers, but are making good progress. They are not involved in business or politics."

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In a series of interviews Putin did with director Oliver Stone for a Showtime special, the Russian leader revealed he had grandchildren, whom he sees and plays with "very seldom, unfortunately."

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"They have their own family life," Putin said of his children.

Katerina Tikhonova

Putin's younger daughter is perhaps slightly better known than her older sister. Born in Dresden, East Germany, while Putin worked there for the KGB, she's also known as Yekaterina. Tikhonova dropped the surname with which she was born -- Putina -- in favor of taking her maternal grandmother's name.

She studied at St. Petersburg State University and Moscow State University, earning a master's degree in physics and mathematics, according to The Guardian. She's had some success as a competitive acrobatic rock 'n' roll dancer -- a type of non-Olympic gymnastics -- earning fifth place in the 2013 world championships.

She's the deputy director of the Institute for Mathematical Research of Complex Systems at Moscow State University and in that capacity spoke at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2021, according to The Washington Post.

Tikhonova married Kirill Shamalov, the son of a close friend of Putin's and co-owner of Rossiya Bank, in 2013, and the two divorced in 2018.

It's believed Putin was referring to Tikhonova when he announced his daughter was one of the first Russians to receive the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in August 2020. The Post reported she has close ties to Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund who was the vaccine's chief lobbyist.

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Maria Vorontsova

Less is known about Putin's oldest daughter, who was born in Leningrad but partially grew up in Dresden. The family moved to Moscow when she was a teenager. She studied biology at St. Petersburg State University and, later, attended medical school in Moscow.

She's a pediatric endocrinologist, studying how hormones affect the body. Yahoo News reported Vorontsova is considered one of Russia's top experts on dwarfism.

Vorontsova lives in Moscow but previously lived in Amsterdam with her Russian-born Dutch husband, Jorrit Faassen, The Guardian reported. She lived there at the time when pro-Russian forces shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, killing 298 people.

The flight departed from Amsterdam and a sizable number of the victims were Dutch, prompting residents and officials in the city to call for her expulsion from the Netherlands.

The Guardian reported that residents of the city have again appealed to Vorontsova to speak to Putin to seek an end to the invasion of Ukraine. They posted a sign on property owned by her and her husband that reads:

"Less than 2,000km from your peaceful piece of free land, your father is decimating an entire free country and it's people. It seems your old man is hard to reach and clearly impossible to stop by even his hangmen. But as we all know, fathers and daughters are a different story."

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