Putin had planned all along' to launch invasion says Mark White
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Yesterday, Putin tore up an eight-year-old peace deal and ordered troops to enter two rebel-held eastern regions of Ukraine to “maintain peace”. For months, the Russian President had denied planning to attack Ukraine. However, yesterday, Putin recognised the independence of two self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, while 150,000 Russian troops are deployed close to the Ukraine border.
Although Moscow has previously stressed “there is no Russian invasion”, certain quarters fear that Russia could mobilise troops in Crimea, Belarus and around Ukraine’s eastern borders.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quick to denounce Putin’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk, labelling the decision a “flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of the Ukraine”.
In turn, Mr Johnson today announced sanctions against five Russian banks and three Russian billionaires.
Since beginning his first of two periods as President in 1999, Putin’s Russia has endured a tense relationship with the West.
Read More: PM unleashes ‘first barrage’ of sanctions as Ukraine crisis deepens
Putin, who is a former KGB agent, has also fought hard to prevent the world from knowing the finer details of his private life, shielding his children from the spotlight since taking office.
The Russian President has two daughters from his first marriage to former flight attendant Ms Shkrebneva.
According to Putin’s government website, Ms Shkrebneva claimed that the President would “spoil” his children, while she took on the role of disciplinarian in the family.
She said: “Not all fathers are as loving with their children as he is.
“He has always spoiled them, while I was the one who had to discipline them.”
Putin and Ms Shkrebneva were married for three decades before their divorce in 2013.
Together they had two daughters, Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova.
Ms Vorontsova was born in Leningrad, modern-day St Petersburg, in 1985 and a year later Ms Shkrebneva gave birth to Ms Tikhonova in Germany, where the family had moved for Putin’s KGB job.
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In 1996, the family moved to Moscow, where Ms Vorontsova and Ms Tikhonova attended a German-language school.
However, they were reportedly removed from the school in 1999 when Putin became acting President and educated at home.
Both went on to higher education under false identities, with Ms Vorontsova studying Biology and then Medicine in Moscow and Ms Tikhonova studying Asian Studies.
Ms Vorontsova is now a medical researcher living in Moscow and is married to Dutch husband Jorrit Faassen.
The couple reportedly have a child, Putin confirming that he was a grandfather in a 2017 interview with filmmaker Oliver Stone.
When asked if he played with his grandchild, the President said: “Very seldom, unfortunately.”
Meanwhile, Ms Tikhonova is a former acrobatic dancer, and currently heads the Innopraktika company at Moscow State University.
She married Russian billionaire Kirill Shamalov in 2013, with the couple divorcing five years later.
Though both of Putin’s children have been kept from the public eye throughout their lives, Ms Tikhonova made an appearance on Russian state television as a biotechnical expert in December 2018.
Her appearance did not include any reference to her being related to Putin.
In June last year, Ms Tikhonova also addressed the St Petersburg International Forum, but again her relation to the President was not referenced.
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