The United States placed new restrictions on the rumored lover of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, as part of the latest round of measures targeting Kremlin-affiliated officials in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Thirty-nine-year old Alina Kabaeva was one of 13 Russian citizens included in the sanctions list by the U.S. Treasury Department. Kabaeva, a former gymnast with two Olympic gold medals, has become better recognized in recent years as the rumored girlfriend of Putin.
Tuesday's U.S. declaration referenced Kabaeva's "close relationship with Putin," but did not specify a romantic connection.
The U.S. government, however, believes that Kabaeva is the mother of at least three of Putin's children, according to the Wall Street Journal, and had prepared a sanctions package against her before deciding at the last minute in late April to hold off so as not to harm the prospects for a negotiated peace in Ukraine.
Kabaeva is the current CEO of the pro-Kremlin National Media Group, which runs a network of TV and radio stations.
Sanctions against Kabaeva had already been placed by the European Union and the United Kingdom.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen stated in a press release, "While innocent people suffer from Russia's illegal war of aggression, Putin's allies have enriched themselves and supported luxurious lifestyles."
The Treasury Department has pledged to utilize all available means to ensure that Russian elites and Kremlin enablers be punished for their "complicity in a war that has cost countless lives."
Despite being born in Uzbekistan in 1983, Kabaeva quickly became one of the most celebrated Russian rhythmic gymnasts. Her athletic career was marred by controversy, however, as she was forced to return two gold from the 2001 Goodwill Games due to a doping scandal.
Kabaeva's retirement from the sport coincided with rumors that she was romantically involved with Putin.
The Kremlin has dismissed the purported connection. Under strange circumstances, a Russian newspaper that published an article in 2008 claiming Putin and Kabaeva were romantically involved was abruptly shut down.
In 2014, Putin and his wife of 30 years, Lyudmila Putina, divorced.
According to Russian and American media accounts, Kabaeva and her family have benefited greatly from their connections to Putin's entourage.
The Journal reported in April, citing a U.S. official, that a classified U.S. intelligence assessment of potential Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. election identified Kabaeva as a beneficiary of Putin's fortune.