According to a document seen by Bloomberg and people familiar with the matter, the European Union has proposed penalising Alina Kabaeva, a former gymnast who chairs the National Media Conglomerate and is reportedly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The list is still subject to approval by European governments, and it is possible that it will change before that happens. On Friday morning, EU ambassadors are expected to meet to discuss – and potentially approve – a sixth package of sanctions, which includes plans to phase out all oil imports by the end of the year.
According to the EU document, the National Media Group is a holding company that owns stakes in almost all major Russian media outlets that spread government propaganda and, as a result, is responsible for supporting actions that undermine Ukraine’s autonomy and territorial integrity.
According to the document, Kabaeva is “closely associated with President Vladimir Putin.” The EU had previously approved the Russian president and two of his girls from his ex-wife.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied reports in the media that Putin, 69, is romantically involved with Kabaeva or has children with her.
Moskovsky Korrespondent’s owner stopped funding the Russian tabloid in 2008, after it reported that Putin had left his wife and was planning to marry Kabaeva. Putin himself slammed the article as a “erotic fantasy.”
After nearly seven years as a lawmaker in Russia’s ruling party, Yury Kovalchuk, a billionaire acquaintance of Putin’s, appointed Kabaeva as the head of his National Media Cluster private equity firm in 2014.
Kabaeva, an Olympic gold medalist, will turn 39 next week.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the US has deferred sanctioning Kabaeva due to concerns that it would exacerbate tensions with Putin, citing unnamed US officials.