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MOSCOW (Россия 24) – The president and his wife reportedly visited the ballet “Esmeralda” at the State Kremlin Palace on Thursday evening.

After ballet the couple gave an interview to the Russia 24 state television channel announcing their divorce.

Asked about longstanding rumors that they no longer lived together, the 60-year-old Mr Putin said: “That is true.”

“It was our joint decision,” Mr Putin said. The couple had been married for almost 30 years.

Mrs Putin was rarely seen in public during her husband’s long tenure at the top of Russian politics. The couple had last been seen in public together at Mr Putin’s inauguration to his third presidential term on May 7, 2012.

She said it had been a “our common decision. And our marriage is over due to the fact that we barely see each other.”

“I don’t like publicity and flying is difficult for me,” she added.

Asked whether they were divorced, Lyudmila said it was a “civilised divorce”. But neither clarified whether they were legally divorced and Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said he did not know.

They married in 1983 and have two daughters, both in their 20s.

There have been longstanding rumours that Mr Putin’s mistress was former rhythmic Olympic gymnast Alina Kabayeva.

While there is no substantive evidence that Mr Putin was romantically linked to Miss Kabayeva, who served as an MP for Mr Putin’s ruling United Russia party, the alleged affair has long been the hottest gossip topic among Russia’s elite.

The rumour first came to public prominence in 2008 when a Russian newspaper, owned by billionaire oligarch Alexander Lebedev, quoted a source as insisting the story was true.

Mr Lebedev shut the newspaper down soon afterwards claiming it had not been a commercial success though many suspected the real reason was to appease an angry Mr Putin.

The rumours later escalated when bloggers claimed Miss Kabayeva had subsequently given birth to Mr Putin’s love child. Mr Putin has angrily claimed that there is “not one word of truth” in any of the allegations, while Miss Kabayeva’s spokesperson has refused to discuss what she derided as “nonsense.”

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