Putins lover re-emerges after nuclear bunker reports sparking plastic surgery rumours

Putin's girlfriend Alina Kabaeva talks about her baby daughter

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Alina Kabaeva, a 38-year-old Olympic gold medallist, was pictured at a junior rhythmic gymnastics rehearsal in the Russian capital’s VTB Arena. It comes ahead of the Alina Festival, a charity event due to take place tomorrow.

Ms Kabaeva has been widely rumoured to be Putin’s mistress, following claims of their involvement ahead of the leader’s divorce from his wife in 2014.

Ms Kabaeva is also alleged to be the mother of several of Putin’s children, though he has never officially recognised them as his.

Her appearance in Moscow following the claims that she had been hiding out in a safe spot may suggest a change in Putin’s stance towards the war in Ukraine.

Last month, reports emerged of high-ranking Russian officials and politicians flying to bunkers in Siberia as nuclear tensions between Russia and the US were ratcheted up.

Putin placed his nuclear threat on “special alert”, which the US decried as an unwanted provocation from the Russian President.

His troops’ sieging of a large nuclear facility in southern Ukraine further heightened tensions, being condemned on the world stage as dangerous.

However, such threats have been perceived as attempts to limit the response of Western allies in aiding Ukraine – which has managed to stave off the Russian invaders for just shy of two months.

The Russian military has been plagued with supply and communication issues, leading to many units being captured or destroyed.

Russian gains have been limited, and they have failed to take any major city to the north or the west of the country.

Their latest assault, on the Donbas region that shares its eastern border with Russia, comes as the initial phase of the attack has still yet to claim the final third of the territory, despite it being under Russian-backed separatist control since 2014.

After waves of failed attacks on Kyiv, Russian troops that descended from the Belarusian border to the north retreated from the satellite cities of the capital – in a sign that the initial phase of the war had been a Russian defeat.

Ms Kabaeva’s reappearance in Moscow may suggest Putin believes the threat of a global war is less imminent, and that his incursion into Ukraine is transforming into one of attrition.

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The latest offensive on the Donbas has been regarded as an attempt to secure a bargaining chip at peace talks, so Russia might come out of the war with some territorial gains.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week swore that he would not give any Ukrainian lands over to Russia, and that they would continue to fight to secure their borders.

Photos of Ms Kabaeva taken at the event have sparked speculation that the former gymnast had undergone cosmetic surgery on her face.

There has also been speculation that Putin’s noticeably puffier face in recent months may be due to botox to mask his advancing years – however others have theorised that he may have cancer or be taking steroids.

One local magazine reportedly noted that her face had “really changed”, and that she was “noticeably prettier”.

Another online Russian news outlet reportedly noted that she was seen wearing a wedding ring at the event.

They are also have said to have hinted tongue in cheek at plastic surgery, writing: “the handwriting of the family beautician is quite notable”.

The Alina Festival is due to take place on the eve of Russia’s commemoration marking the end of the Second World War, when Putin is rumoured to be planning to declare some form of victory in Ukraine, despite the scant military progress.

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