Virgins everywhere might have Vladimir Putin's back, but as the Russian strongman prepares to assume the presidency in two weeks, wife Lyudmila has been conspicuously absent from his side—and tongues are wagging furiously. Is she locked away in a monastery, wonders the Daily Mail? Or shall we believe the Huffington Post, which picked up a report that she's pregnant with the couple's third child and resting in a Berlin hospital? Still other rumors have Lyudmila Putin shuffled offstage while her husband pursues torrid affairs with either former spy/current lingerie model Anna Chapman or gymnast Alina Kabayeva, with whom he's alleged to have a love child.
Lyudmila last appeared publicly to vote in the March 4 elections; she has only appeared with Putin twice in the last two years. But some experts say that's typical for Russian wives, who are rarely seen and never heard: "For western people, maybe it's strange. For Russians, it's totally normal," says one. In other fun Putin news, the Vlad today announced that he's stepping down as chairman of his fraud-tainted United Russia party. "In line with political practice here, the president stands above parties," Putin said, according to Reuters. But not former presidents: Putin suggested that soon-to-be-PM Dmitri Medvedev fill the post.