Dance colleague of Putin's youngest daughter confirms she is the Russian leader's child... then mysteriously changes his story amid Russian attempts to keep her out of the public eye
- Katerina Tikhonova first named as Putin's daughter in 2015 by businessman
- This time, identity was confirmed by?Manfred Mohab, one of her colleagues
- But Mohab then backtracked by claiming he had misheard the question
- Putin is famously cagey about private life and seeks to shield daughters
A dance colleague of Vladimir Putin's youngest daughter confirmed she was the Russian leader's child before mysteriously changing his story today amid government attempts to keep her out of the public eye.
Katerina Tikhonova was first named as Putin's daughter in 2015 by a senior Russian businessman, who also changed his story despite two anonymous sources confirming the claim to Reuters.
A legal director of the World Rock'n'Roll Confederation, the professional body for aerobic dancers including Tikhonova, confirmed she was Putin's daughter on Sunday.?
Katerina Tikhonova(left, at a dance show) was first named as Putin's daughter in 2015 by a senior Russian businessman
Manfred Mohab, vice president for legal affairs, said he knew Tikhonova through their work together on the confederation's presidium.
When asked whether he knew Tikhonova was Putin's daughter, he said: 'Yes. I know her, yes of course.' Asked a second time, he nodded and said: 'Yes.'
But Mohab backtracked today, saying: 'I can′t confirm that I know the daughter of Mr Putin. I have nothing to do with them.'
Asked why he had earlier said Tikhonova was Putin's daughter, Mohab said: 'Believe me, it was so loud in the hall that a lot of the things I can′t understand and other things I felt that I didn′t understand right. So it′s not sure that I gave you the right answers.'
Mohab said he had problems with his hearing. 'I′m sure we had some misunderstandings.'
The Kremlin and Tikhonova did not respond to requests for comment.
In 2015, Andrey Akimov, deputy chairman of the board of directors at Russian lender Gazprombank, said Tikhonova was Putin's daughter but later denied the statement.
Reuters also confirmed her identity through two other sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Tikhonova (left), dances with Ivan Klimov during the World Cup Rock'n'Roll Acrobatic Competition in Krakow, Poland on April 12, 2014
After the report, Gazprombank said Akimov was 'surprised and bewildered' by the quotes attributed to him by Reuters and that he had made no such remarks.
Akimov and a representative for Gazprombank did not respond to a request for comment.
Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer, is famously guarded about his private life and has fought to keep his two daughters, Maria and Katerina, away from the public eye.
While Katerina's identity has been widely assumed, it has never been confirmed by Tikhonova herself, her representatives or the Kremlin, which says it does not comment on the private lives of Putin's close relatives.
Mohab, in his comments on Sunday, became the first official to publicly identify her relationship to the Russian president since Akimov in 2015.
Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer,(pictured in Sochi on November 22) is famously guarded about his private life and has fought to shield his two daughters
Tikhonova, who uses a surname inherited from her grandmother, runs publicly-funded projects at Moscow State University and serves as the WRRC's vice president for expansion and marketing.
Aged 31, she is a major player in acrobatic rock'n'roll, a niche dance discipline she has competed in and helps manage through senior positions at the WRRC and the Russian national federation.
She is also married to Kirill Shamalov, the son of one of Putin's closest friends, who has since made a fortune of at least $1 billion through dealings in Russia's largest petrochemical company.
Mohab spoke on the sidelines of the World Cup Rock'n'Roll European Championship in Moscow.?
Asked if Tikhonova's personal connection to the president had been a boon for acrobatic rock'n'roll, he said: 'Yes, of course.'
The sport is developing thanks to Russia, he said. 'We have an expansion project which is working on all continents and in a lot of countries. And this is all going out from Russia.'
With just over 200 adult pairs in the WRRC world rankings, acrobatic rock'n'roll remains a relatively obscure discipline in competitive dancing that is most popular in eastern Europe.
Around 9,000 people actively participate in acrobatic rock'n'roll in Russia and organizers aim to add another 3,000 people by 2020, according to the national federation.
Moscow is building a publicly-funded $30 million complex for the sport on the outskirts of the city, an investment which dwarfs that spent in other countries and on some bigger sports in Russia.
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