bne IntelliNews -
Ekaterina Tikhonova - reportedly the younger daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin - is to oversee a $1.7bn expansion project at Moscow State University, thrusting her into the public limelight for the first time.
Tikhonova, 28 - who according to Russian media reports uses her mother Ludmilla's maiden name - is currently head of a firm drafting plans for the expansion of Moscow University facilities to include a new science campus, a project appraised at $1.7bn. News outlet RBK published an investigation into the expansion project, and Tikhonova's role leading the design firm Innopraktika, on January 29. But the investigation did not mention that Tikhonova was Putin's daughter, an indication of the sensitivity of the topic. Nor did it mention her previous career as acrobatic dancer. The RBK article merely questioned how a woman without any previous known activity in science research or administration had been given such a role.
Kremlin-critical blogger and journalist Oleg Kashin first made explicit the Kremlin connection in a subsequent blog post, while also posting footage of dance routines. In comments to Forbes Russia, long-serving Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov then said he "did not know" whether Tikhonova is Putin's daughter. "I don't know who she is. I cannot judge, I don't know. Many girls have claimed before to be the daughters of Vladimir Putin", Peskov said.
Sources at Moscow State University have since confirmed to media that Tikhonova is Putin's daughter.
According to Tikhonova's assistant, Nataliya Popova, in comments to RBK, Tikhonova was invited to participate in the project by the rector of Moscow State University Viktor Sadovnichy. "Previously we had no connection to the field of [scientific| innovation," Natalia Popova said. "Katerina is burning with enthusiasm for the idea, she wants to do precisely such a structure, with maximum benefit, and make a contribution to stemming the brain drain, help introduce Russian innovations to Russian industry. She had often expressed this idea previously, and then decided to convert idea into practice."
Before taking on the role at Innopraktika and Moscow State University, Tikhonova had pursued a successful career as acrobatic dancer, competing in international competitions, as shown by a large number of video clips available on the internet. Her longstanding dance partner Ivan Klimov is also on the board of Innopraktika, according to the RBK investigation.
Since Putin became president in 2000, his daughters Ekaterina and Maria have been hidden from public view, with no reliable photos of them available, making confirmation of Tikhonova's identity difficult.
Ekaterina was previously widely reported to have married the son of a South Korean admiral and to be living in South Korea. Her elder sister, 29-year-old Maria, attracted media attention after the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight from Amsterdam to Kualu Lumpur over East Ukraine allegedly by Russian-backed rebels on July 17, 2014. Maria was reported to be living in the Netherlands at the time, and to have left because of the outrage in the Netherlands at the incident.
Now that Tikhonova has apparently taken on a public role, attention will focus on any signs that she could be destined for a higher state position, or even potentially become successor to Putin, who is due to step down in 2024 at the latest. "There is the Father of All-Russia [Putin] who after fifteen years in power suddenly discovered that she [Tikhonova] and her sister Maria (…) are his last remaining untapped personnel resource , and however much she would like to dance, her biography will now be determined by the state line - as successor?" Oleg Kashin wrote.
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