Vladimir Putin is dating Wendi Deng, at least according to a report in US Weekly.
The tabloid cited a no doubt top-level source as saying the former Mrs. Rupert Murdoch’s relationship with the Kremlin strongman is “serious,” even if she doesn’t fit the pattern of elite Russian athletes he has been linked to in the past.
“Deng has yet to be spotted looking romantic with the Russian leader, but was seen boarding her pal Roman Abramovich’s yacht in St. Bart’s on Monday, March 28,” the magazine reports. “Abramovich also happens to be friends with Putin.”
This incontrovertible proof of a new love match comes nearly three years after Deng and Murdoch’s divorce, in June 2013, reportedly over her close relationship with former British prime minister Tony Blair.
But occasional Putin/Deng rumors have been circulating for years, US Weekly reports.
After he formally announced his divorce from Lyudmila Putina in 2014, the president was widely thought to be dating Alina Kabaeva, a former rhythmic gymnast who was derided as a homewrecker for allegedly ruining his marriage. Back in 2009, Kabaeva was rumored to have given birth to Putin’s son. Though the relationship was never confirmed, the rumor mill went into overdrive when Kabaeva was selected to light the Olympic flame at the Sochi Olympics.
(Lyudmila Putina, for her part, seems to have moved on and remarried since the split.)
Within a year, the media started reporting that Kabaeva appeared to be pregnant again. When Putin briefly disappeared in March 2015, some speculated that he had gone into hiding with the gymnast for the birth of their child in Switzerland. But a Kremlin spokesman shut down those rumors.
“Information that a child has been born to Vladimir Putin is not true,” said Dmitry Peskov. “I am planning to appeal to people who have money to organize a competition for best journalistic hoax.”
But by August 2015 the Russian Internet was rife with rumors that the president had moved on with Natalia Ragozina, a top-ranked boxer equally known for her seductive photoshoots. They appeared together at an international sambo tournament in Sochi that month, and Ragozina was featured in a photo released by the Kremlin.
“In Sochi she wore heels and an evening dress,” the Russian channel NTV reported, noting that the boxer sat between the president and prime minister.
US Weekly didn’t note what Wendi Deng’s Olympic event would be, should she actually be dating Putin. But if her past marriage is any indication, she’s a world champion at smacking down people who attack her man with pie.