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MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin, who announced today that he is splitting with his wife Lyudmila after nearly 30 years of marriage, will be his country’s first divorced leader since Peter the Great.

Peter, in 1698, forced his first wife Yevdokia to take vows as a nun. The Putins, who broke the news after attending a performance of the ballet “Esmeralda” in the Kremlin, say their parting is more amicable.

Putin explained that his wife could no longer put up with his highly public lifestyle and heavy workload. “There are people who just cannot put up with it,” he said. “Lyudmila Alexandrovna has stood watch for eight, almost nine years.”

Lyudmila confirmed this version of the amicable breakup: “Our marriage is over because we hardly ever see each other. Vladimir Vladimirovich is immersed in his work, our children have grown and are living their own lives.”

The announcement stunned Russians because it is a complete break with both Orthodox and Soviet traditions. Putin has lately presided over a resurgence of Orthodox Christianity, which he considers the backbone of Russian spirituality. It is highly out of character for Putin, a devout churchgoer, to flout the Orthodox creed so publicly.

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