Putin’s hidden daughters tipped to emerge onto big stage after rare public appearance

Expert: "Putin would push the button to save his own skin"

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The mayor of Kherson last night admitted his city had fallen to the Russians, the first major city to be overrun by Putin’s forces. In an intelligence update, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said heavy Russian artillery and air strikes had continued to target urban areas of Ukraine. The strikes have primarily been focused on the country’s major cities ‒ Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol and Chernihiv.

As Putin’s invasion of Ukraine enters its eighth day, there have also been reports of air strikes hitting residential areas in the city of Zhytomyr, around 85 miles west of the capital, Kyiv.

Since becoming President for the first time 23 years ago, Putin’s relationship with the West has been fraught with tension that has boiled over in the past week.

Meanwhile, despite him being one of the world’s most recognisable figures, the Russian leader has always shielded his children from the spotlight, and once claimed: “I never discuss my family with anyone”.

However, Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova are widely believed to be Putin’s daughters, and their surprise appearance at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum last year sparked rumours that they may take on a more prominent role in public life.

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At the conference, Ms Tikhonova, who is head of the Moscow State University Centre for the National Intellectual Reserve, gave a six minute speech via a video link.

Meanwhile, at the same event, genetics researcher Ms Vorontsova gave a 13-minute interview on rare diseases that was broadcast on state-run television.

Speaking to RFE/RL, Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Centre said: “Why bring these purported daughters of Putin to such an event and what was the point of them speaking publicly?

“Either they were being used by lobbyists for their own purposes, as one might think, especially from the appearance of Katerina Tikhonova, or they just thought it would be interesting to show the external media what Putin’s daughters say and think and look like.

“Maybe this is just a little drawing back of the curtain without identifying the real functions of the President’s daughters. 

“Maybe this is a foretaste of some sort of emergence onto the big stage.”

Of course, no one asked either of the women at the conference whether they were Putin’s children. 

The only suggestion that they may be the President’s daughters came when the moderator referred to Ms Tikhonova as Katerina Vladimirovna, meaning her father is called Vladimir. 

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According to the Washington Post, the moderator also cracked a joke while Ms Tikhonova was speaking, which prompted another panellist, justice minister Konstantin Chuichenko, to shush him and warn him not to interrupt her.

The pair’s appearance at the conference may also have been an attempt to boost Putin’s public image.

While Russia’s ruling elite have long been criticised for sending their children abroad to be educated, Putin’s daughters reportedly remained largely in Russia to study.

Mr Kolesnikov added: “This reflects positively on the President’s image. 

“His daughters are so business-like and are involved in such different careers. 

“One is practically a doctor and the other ‒ well, it isn’t very clear what she does but she also is doing something complicated and is speaking publicly about something to do with investments.”

Yesterday, a Downing Street spokesperson said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and condemned the “abhorrent attacks on Ukraine in the recent hours and days.

The spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister told President Zelensky that the UK was rallying UN General Assembly members today, to ensure the strongest possible condemnation of Russia at this afternoon’s UN meeting in New York.

“Sharing his disgust at the attacks on Ukraine, the PM said the UK was doing everything possible to support the Ukrainian people and their resistance. 

“President Zelensky thanked the PM for the UK’s support and leadership in ensuring defensive aid reached Ukraine and said it had been vital in holding back Russian forces.

“Both leaders agreed on the need for sanctions to go further to exert maximum pressure on President Putin in the coming days.”

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