블라디미르 푸틴 러시아 대통령과 부인 류드밀라 (연합뉴스)
외부인들에게 부부 같지 않은 부부 관계를 유지해 오던 블라디미르 푸틴 러시아 대통령 부부가 마침내 이혼을 선언했다.
이날 전격적인 이혼 발표는 잘 짜인 한편의 쇼와 같았다.
대중 앞에 모습조차 거의 드러내지 않던 부부는 함께 발레를 관람하고는 TV 앞에 나란히 서서 웃는 모습을 보인 뒤 결단을 공개했다. 결혼 30주년을 채 2개월도 남겨두지 않은 시점이다.
푸틴 대통령과 부인 류드밀라(55)는 6일(현지시간) 저녁 크렘린궁에서 열린 발레공연 '에스메랄다'를 함께 관람한 후 호화로운 방으로 이동해 국영 러시아 24TV 카메라 앞에 섰다.
푸틴 대통령은 우선 "대단했다. 음악도 좋았고 완성도도 훌륭했다"고 감상평을 했고, 옆에서 류드밀라도 남편의 평가에 호응했다.
푸틴은 곧 기자로부터 '두 사람이 함께 살지 않고 있다는 소문이 있다'는 질문을 받자 마치 나쁜 짓을 하다 걸린 소년처럼 가볍게 웃은 뒤 "그건 그래요"라고 말했다.
기자가 "이혼이라는 말로 받아들여도 되느냐"고 재차 질문하자, 푸틴은 "그렇다. 이것은 교양 있는 이혼"이라고 확인했다.
푸틴은 또 "우리는 갈라서기로 했으며 결혼생활은 끝이 났다"면서 "부부가 함께 내린 결정"이라고 덧붙였다.
류드밀라도 "대중 앞에 서는 게 싫었다. 비행기를 타는 일도 힘들었다"고만 밝혔다. 류드밀라가 외부에 자신이 알려지는 걸 원치 않는다는 것은 이미 잘 알려진 사실이다.
특이한 이날의 발표 형식은 한 유력 인사가 충실한 배우자를 버린 게 아니라는 점을 강조하려는 것으로 풀이된다. 푸틴으로서는 대중에게 각인된 '강직하며 전통적 가치를 중시한다'는 이미지를 훼손하지 않으려는 목적도 가진 것으로 보인다.
푸틴 부부는 그동안 공식 행사에 함께 참석하는 모습조차 거의 보이지 않는 등 베일에 가려진 생활을 해왔다. 지난해 4월 영국 일간 더 타임스는 류드밀라의 모습이 수년간 공개된 적이 없다며 차기 영부인의 행방을 놓고 '수도원 거주' 등 소문이 무성하다고 전하기도 했다.
Putins attend ballet, then announce their divorce
Vladimir Putin pulled off one of his most audacious pieces of stagecraft, attending a ballet with his rarely seen wife, then emerging smiling and announcing their marriage is over.
The end of the marriage of the Russian president and Lyudmila Putina less than two months shy of their 30th anniversary came on state television after a Thursday evening that started out like a model of domestic contentment _ a devoted husband taking his wife out for an artsy interlude.
After the performance of “Esmeralda” at the Great Kremlin Palace, the two came into a luxurious room to speak to a reporter.
“Excellent. Great music, excellent production,” Putin said and Lyudmila echoed his praise.
After about a minute, the reporter asked about rumors that the two didn't live together. Putin smiled slightly, like a boy caught misbehaving, and turned his head toward Lyudmila. “This is so,” he said.
It wasn't immediately clear if that meant just separate domiciles. After a few more comments, the reporter gently prodded: “I am afraid to say this word `divorce.”'
“Yes, this is a civilized divorce,” Lyudmila said.
The peculiar format for the announcement appeared aimed at underlining that this wasn't just a powerful man dumping his faithful helpmate. That's a potentially important strategic move for Putin, who has based his public image on rectitude and support of traditional values.
Tabloid reports in 2008 claimed that Putin already had divorced Lyudmila and planned to marry a gymnast less than half his age.
The Interfax news agency cited presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the divorce has not been formalized and that the televised comments were only an announcement of the decision to divorce.
Divorce is common in Russia, and nearly 700,000 couples dissolved their marriages in 2009, according to UNICEF. Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist who studies Russia's political elite, said the divorce probably won't hurt Putin in the public eye _ as long as he doesn't take a trophy wife.
“If a young wife appears, then the reactions in society may be very different,” she said in an article published by the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda on its website.
For some of his detractors, the move even seemed to earn some grudging approval.
“For years I've heard that it would be good if Putin told the truth and divorced. And what now? Everyone's criticizing him for the divorce,” Ksenia Sobchak, a socialite and supporter of Putin's opposition, wrote on Twitter.
Russian leaders, unlike their American counterparts, generally keep their domestic lives well out of public view. Lyudmila Putina, 55, was rarely seen in public during her husband's long tenure at the top of Russian politics.
“I don't like publicity and flying is difficult for me,” said the former Aeroflot flight attendant.
The 60-year-old Putin, however, seeks the spotlight. His penchant for macho media events ranging from riding with bearded motorcyclists to petting a polar bear have earned him admiration _ or derision _ and his televised annual news conferences that stretch beyond four hours are legend.
“All my activities, all my work, is linked with publicity. Absolute publicity. Some people like it, some people don't. But there are people who absolutely can't stand it,” Putin said.
What he rarely shows in public is any hint of vulnerability and the divorce announcement didn't have the air of a man brooding over the fading of love's bloom. Rather, Lyudmila portrayed him as a man devoted to his country.
“Vladimir Vladimiorvich is absolutely concentrated on his work,” she said.
Putin in turn aimed for a touch of gallantry, remarking on his wife's forbearance. “Lydumila Alexandrovna has kept the watch for eight years, even nine,” he said, apparently referring to his first two terms in the Kremlin and his year-old non-consecutive third term.
The Putins married on July 28, 1983, and have two daughters, Maria and Yekaterina, whose lives get little public view.
“We love them very much and we are proud of them,” Putin said.
There have been hints that Lyudmila Putina was unhappy. In a 2005 interview with three Russian newspapers, she complained that her husband worked long hours, forgetting that “one needs not only to work, but also to live.” (AP)