UPDATED: Pressure builds on Switzerland to deport ‘Putin’s mistress’

A petition has been launched for Switzerland to extradite former Russian gymnast Alina Kabaeva, who is rumoured to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long-time mistress and the mother of four of his children.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) hands flowers to Alina Kabayeva, Russian rhytmic gymnastics star and Olympic prize winner, after awarding her with an Order of Friendship during annual award ceremony in the Kremlin 08 June 2001. Photo: SERGEI CHIRIKOV / POOL / AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) hands flowers to Alina Kabayeva, Russian rhytmic gymnastics star and Olympic prize winner, after awarding her with an Order of Friendship during annual award ceremony in the Kremlin 08 June 2001. Photo: SERGEI CHIRIKOV / POOL / AFP

Under the title “Switzerland, why are you sheltering the helpers of the Putin regime?”, the petition calls for the immediate extradition of Kabaeva to Russia. 

The petition compares Kabaeva and Putin to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun. 

“It’s time you reunite Eva Braun with her Fuhrer,” says the petition, which had more than 70,000 signatures as at April 26th, with a goal of 75,000. 

Where in the world is Alina Kabaeva?

The 38-year-old gymnast, who has been pictured with the 69-year-old Putin on several occasions, is rumoured to have given birth to four children with the Russian leader. 

The first of which, a daughter, was born in the southern Swiss town of Lugano. 

According to US news outlet Page Six and British newspaper The Times, Kabaeva lives in a heavily fortified chalet in the Ticino alps in the south of the country. 

However, US officials said they believed Kabaeva lived “in a high-walled villa with a helipad” in Cologny, an upmarket suburb of Geneva, Swiss news media reports

Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes said a statement from immigration authorities indicated Kabaeva did not have a residence permit to live in Switzerland. 

In late April, Kabaeva appeared at a gymnastics event in Moscow, which was adorned with Russia’s ‘Z’ symbol which has become synonymous with the Ukraine invasion. 

In her appearance, Kabaeva said “every family has a war story and we mustn’t forget it”, while linking the current invasion to the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War Two

Who is Kabaeva and will she be kicked out?

Kabaeva won a gold medal at the 2008 olympics and is rumoured to be romantically linked with Putin since 2008 after an article in the “Moskovskij Korrespondent”, which was later shut down after publishing the report. 

The online petition does not appear to have any legal influence over any migration or extradition decision made by Switzerland. 

Whether the former gymnast can be extradited firstly depends on whether she actually lives in Switzerland, with national broadcaster RTS reporting on Monday that federal justice officials believe she is not currently in Switzerland. 

“The FDJP has no indication of the presence of this person in Switzerland. The appropriate clarifications have been made.”

If Kabaeva is actually in Switzerland, she may be deported if it is deemed she is staying unlawfully in Switzerland, if she has committed criminal acts or if she is deemed a security threat. 

In practice, whether she will be deported is likely to depend in part on her citizenship status. 

Some media outlets have reported that Kabaeva has Swiss citizenship. Switzerland reserves the right to exercise its own citizens but does not do so in practice. 

Children born in Switzerland do not automatically receive Swiss citizenship, but can be deemed citizens if a parent has a Swiss passport. 

READ MORE: How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

Notoriously neutral Switzerland has backed EU sanctions against Russia, with Swiss President Ignazio Cassis repeatedly critical of Russia’s invasion. 

The Swiss government is expecting 50,000 refugees to arrive fleeing the conflict, although some estimates suggest the real number is likely to be higher. 

An estimated 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine in the month since the invasion, the majority of which are currently in neighbouring Poland. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Ukraine and allies lay foundations for reconstruction at Swiss conference

Allies of Ukraine meeting in Switzerland were due Tuesday to adopt a declaration spelling out the principles and priorities of rebuilding the war-shattered country, estimated to cost at least $750 billion.

Ukraine and allies lay foundations for reconstruction at Swiss conference

Leaders from dozens of countries, international organisations and businesses have been meeting in the southern Swiss city of Lugano under tight security since Monday, discussing the best path forward for reconstruction, even as Russia’s war continues to rage in Ukraine.

‘A beautiful country’: How Ukrainian refugees see Switzerland

Speaking on the first day of the Ukraine Recovery Conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and a long line of government ministers described the massive destruction caused by Russia’s February 24 invasion.

“Reconstruction of Ukraine is not a local task of a single nation,” Zelensky said via video message. “It is a common task of the whole democratic world,” he said.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the recovery “is already estimated at $750 billion”. “The key source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs,” he said.

“The Russian authorities unleashed this bloody war. They caused this massive destruction, and they should be held accountable for it”.

READ MORE: Switzerland extends sanctions against Russia over Ukraine invasion

The conference, which had been planned before the invasion, had originally been slated to discuss reforms in Ukraine before being repurposed to focus on recovery.

Shmyhal laid out the government’s phased reconstruction plan, focused first on the immediate needs of those affected by the war, followed by the financing of thousands of longer-term reconstruction projects aimed at making Ukraine European, green and digital.

Those priorities are expected to be reflected in a final Lugano Declaration setting out the general principles defining a framework for rebuilding Ukraine, which should be adopted when the conference wraps up around midday Tuesday.

As billions of dollars in aid flow into Ukraine, lingering concerns about widespread corruption in the country mean far-reaching reforms will also be seen as a condition for any recovery plan decided.

The former Soviet state has long been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries by Transparency International.

In Europe, only Russia and Azerbaijan ranked worse.

The Ukrainians have proposed that allied countries “adopt” specific regions of Ukraine, and lead the recovery there to render it more efficient. Britain has proposed taking on the Kyiv region, while a diplomatic source said France would concentrate on the heavily-hit Chernihiv region.

Total Resistance: The Swiss Cold War manual inspiring Ukraine’s fight against Russia

In all, around 1,000 people are attending the conference, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who let out an enthusiastic “Slava Ukraini” (glory to Ukraine) after insisting on the importance of rebuilding a Ukraine better than before the war.