MOSCOW (AP) — Russian media from all sides of the political spectrum have reacted with unusual compassion to the announcement of President Vladimir Putin’s divorce.
Putin, 60, and his 55-year-old wife, Lyudmila, announced the end of their marriage less than two months shy of their 30th anniversary in an interview Thursday with Russian television.
His spokesman Dmitry Peskov could not say when they would formally divorce, adding that this did not matter.
Divorce is common in Russia. Nearly 700,000 Russian couples dissolved their marriages in 2009, according to UNICEF. But Russian leaders, unlike their American counterparts, generally keep their domestic lives well out of public view and divorce among top officials in Russia is unprecedented.
Lyudmila Putina was rarely seen in public during her husband’s long tenure at the top of Russian politics, fueling rumors that she and Putin had already separated.
While breakups involving prominent Russian politicians are exceptionally rare, some sections of the media often sneer at celebrity splits.
Russian media, however, were unusually compassionate about the Putins’ decision.
Opposition-leaning Kommersant Radio lauded the couple for keeping the public informed instead of keeping the divorce a secret.
“Perhaps a lot of people feel better now that the president did what he did instead of living a double life for the sake of following some false protocol,” prominent columnist Viktor Loshak said on Kommersant FM Friday morning. “The president and his wife acted like real people.”
One of Russia’s best-selling tabloids, Moskovsky Komsomolets, credited the president with breaking a long-held taboo about talking about his private life, let alone any problems.
“There was hardly any politics-savvy Russian in the country who could not have guessed that the first couple wasn’t particularly intimate. Lyudmila Putina’s long-time absence at political events was telling,” writer Mikhail Rostovsky said. “Putin has broken a taboo by showing that he is a man like everyone else. Even the president is entitled have a private life — and entitled to have failures in it, too.”
There was no comment on state-run media about the prospect of a second marriage for Putin or another woman in his life.
In a Friday interview with the opposition Ekho Moskvy radio, Peskov, his spokesman, said there is no other woman in Putin’s life, responding to rumors years ago that Putin was going to marry a gymnast half his age.
“Look at Putin’s work schedule,” Peskov said. “You will see that there is no place for family affairs in his life, which is probably unfortunate. It’s only about the duties and responsibility that he has as head of the state.”
The Putins married on July 28, 1983, and have two adult daughters, Maria and Yekaterina, who haven’t been seen in public for years.
There had been hints that Lyudmila Putina was unhappy. In a 2005 interview with three Russian newspapers, she complained that her husband worked long hours, forgetting that “one needs not only to work, but also to live.”