Putin's Girls Having La Dolce Vita Break
Published: August 9, 2002 (Issue # 793)
MOSCOW - At the personal invitation of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the two teenage daughters of President Vladimir Putin are frolicking at one of Europe's fanciest sea resorts on monthlong summer vacation.
Maria, 17, and Yekaterina, 16, are swimming, suntanning and sightseeing around Sardinia during the day and spending the night at Berlusconi's luxurious La Certosa summer residence on the northern coast of the island, the Corriera Della Sera newspaper reported this week. Keeping them company is the prime minister's daughter Barbara, who speaks Russian.
A diplomat at the Italian Embassy in Moscow confirmed the report Wednesday.
News of Putin's daughters vacationing on the invitation of one of the richest men in Europe provided a rare insight into the jealously guarded private life of the Putin family. While Putin's wife, Lyudmila, makes occasional public appearances as the country's first lady, Putin has gone to great lengths to keep his daughters out of the limelight.
Maria and Yekaterina grew up in East Germany, where Putin worked as a KGB officer in the 1980s. Maria was born in St. Petersburg and Yekaterina in Dresden.
A Kremlin spokesperson refused to comment on the whereabouts of the president's daughters on Wednesday.
"We only have information about the president's work," the spokesperson said.
The Italian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Putin's daughters were vacationing in Italy.
"They are in Sardinia. However, there has been no official information about that," the diplomat said.
Maria and Yekaterina Putina are not the only guests at the La Certosa residence. Berlusconi's favorite singer Mariano Apicella is vacationing with them at the prime minister's invitation, Corriera Della Sera said.
The newspaper said Berlusconi is not only relaxing but also trying to lose some weight ahead of the wedding of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's daughter at the end of the month.
The Italian leader had a chance to check out Putin's Bocharov Ruchei summer residence earlier this year when he flew down to the Black Sea resort of Sochi for an informal meeting.
Corriera Della Sera said Barbara Berlusconi cut short a trip to Australia to welcome her Russian friends to Italy. Barbara, who is the same age as Maria, goes to a lyceum in Monza, outside Milan. Upon graduation, she intends to study management at the University of Milan.
Sardinia, located to the south of the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranian Sea, is a posh vacation sport catering to wealthy tourists.
All is not fun and games, however, for Putin's daughters. The La Nuova Sardinia newspaper reported Wednesday that one of the girls suffered airsickness during a helicopter trip to the neighboring Maddalena island on Tuesday and had to receive medical care.
It was not clear which daughter became sick.
Corriera Della Sera reported that Putin might join Maria and Yekaterina later this month for a few days.
The Kremlin would not comment on Putin's travel plans.
School starts at the beginning of September, and Maria and Yekaterina receive private lessons at home.
The trip to Italy is a change from the girl's low-profile lives. When Putin was elected president in 2000, his wife Lyudmila said, in one interview, that the family's lifestyle had become more discreet due to security concerns and both Maria and Yekaterina started studying at home.
The girls, whose courses include German, French and English, have complained that being pulled out of school did not mean less homework.
"We get a huge home assignment even now when we do not go to school, " Maria said in a rare interview published in a 2000 book about Putin titled, "In the First Person: Conversations With Vladimir Putin."
At the time, Maria wanted to study management and Yekaterina dreamed of becoming a furniture designer.