MOSCOW—A nearly 20-year taboo on reporting in the Russian news media about President Vladimir Putin’s personal life has unraveled — just a little — with an interview broadcast on state television with a woman who has been described as his daughter.
The interview suggested some softening of Putin’s steely image and the prospect that his two adult daughters may be easing into public life.
Putting Tikhonova on television, Khrushcheva said, is showing Russians that “there’s more than one Putin working for us.”
For the television program, Tikhonova was interviewed in front of a computer graphic of a head seemingly wired to electrodes. Plugged into these devices, she said, “you can really say that a person realizes the potential of technology, and himself, at the same time.”
The Russian newspaper RBK reported Tikhonova’s role at the research institute, called Innopraktika, in 2015, and later the Reuters news agency identified Tikhonova as Putin’s daughter living under an assumed name. The state oil company Rosneft has partially financed Tikhonova’s institute, according to The Bell, an independent Russian news site.
The Kremlin has declined to comment on Tikhonova’s identity. During the television show, she was identified as “director of Innopraktika and deputy director of the Institute of Mathematical Study of Complex Systems at Moscow State University.”
Tikhonova’s marriage to Kirill N. Shamalov, a Russian investor, had raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest when a Russian state pension fund provided a $1.75 billion below-market-rate loan to Sibur, a petrochemical company that was at the time partly owned by Shamalov.
Tikhonova and Shamalov have since reportedly separated, Bloomberg News has reported. Sibur denied any conflicts in receiving the pension fund loan. The matter is politically sensitive as the Kremlin this year cited a lack of pension reserves and raised the retirement age, touching off protests.
In June, Rossiya 1, another state-run channel, interviewed the woman reputed to be Putin’s other daughter, who is also living under an assumed name — Maria Vorontsova — about her work as a child endocrinologist. In 2016, a Russian magazine, The New Times, reported that Vorontsova was Putin’s elder daughter.
In his fullest explanation about the secrecy around his daughters, Putin suggested a desire in 2017 that his grandchildren “live like ordinary people,” out of the public eye.
“The thing is, you see, I do not want them to grow up like some royal princes,” he said, answering a question during a televised call-in show. “They need to have a normal environment and ordinary interaction with other children. The minute I give their names and ages, they would be identified immediately and would never be left in peace.”
Putin said his daughters are “involved in science and education,” and “live normal, everyday lives.”