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When the mayor of a Dutch city, angry in the wake of the MH17 disaster, called for the deportation of Maria Putina, the world was reminded that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not an island unto himself — he has kids. Not just one beautiful daughter, but two.
The Putin girls may be the most mysterious first-children in modern history – especially when you consider their father has held power, either as Prime Minister as President, for nearly two decades.
To say little is known about the two daughters would be an understatement.
The eldest, Maria — or “Masha” — is 29 and her sister, Yekaterina — or “Katya” — is 27. Despite being “millennials” neither seems to have presence on any social network, and have not fallen prey to the U.S. tabloid coverage of famous scions.
The Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov famously said last November: “There's a lot of rumors. But we never did not talk about the family of Vladimir Putin and will not do this.”
That was in response to a simple question as to whether Putin had gone to Seoul earlier that month to visit Katya.
"He is afraid to talk about these things because he does not know if Mr. Putin will be happy about this."
Both daughters attended German-language secondary schools and then went to St. Petersburg State University, according to New York Times article from 2012. Masha reportedly studied biology while Katya focused on Asian studies.
The younger daughter was romantically linked to a South Korean man, Yoon Joon-won, the son of a employee at the Korean Embassy in Moscow. But there were also denials.
Yekaterina now reportedly lives with Nikolai Samalov, a long-time friend of her father's who financed numerous construction deals connected to the Sochi Olympics.
It was taken only as rumor and innuendo that Masha was living with Dutch businessman Jorrit Fassen in the Netherlands until Hilversum Mayor Pieter Broertjes on Wednesday called for her to be deported in the wake of the MH17 controversy. He later apologized.
It’s still not fully been absolutely confirmed that Masha lives in Holland with Fassen, who has held senior roles with Russian gas companies; Dutch reports claimed that Putin visited the couple in 2013 (his spokesman denied this). But Ukrainians on Twitter last weekend called for a peaceful protest at an apartment building in Voorschoten where she reportedly lives.
Even the girls’ mother, Putin's wife of nearly 30 years — they divorced last year — was virtually unknown in media.
Lyudmila, a former flight attendant whom Vladimir met at a ballet performance, tended to accompany him only for high-profile occasions, such as voting in last year’s presidential elections. A picture that was taken of them at the last elections became a Russian meme with the headline “See you in six years!”
When they divorced, they acknowledged that they were often apart.
"We practically never saw each other. To each his own life," Putin curtly told reporters in June, 2013, as the two made a joint announcement on the end of their marriage.
Lyudmila Putina said: "We will eternally be very close people. I'm thankful … that he supports me."
She has been described as religiously devout, and may have even spent time at a monastery.
Most people who could offer some insight into the Putins appear not to want to cross the former KGB man.
In a 2008 article in Pravda, one of the last times the Russian newspaper wrote about the Putin daughters, the second paragraph read: “We would like to remind here that the private life of the former President of Russia and his family is a tabooed subject for public discussions and publications in this country.”