August 15, 2022

When Vladimir Putin proposed to his first wife, he was so low key that she was sure he was trying to dump her instead.

Lyudmila Shkrebneva recounted the odd proposal in “First Person,” a 2000 biography which contains interviews with many who were close to the Russian leader.

“You know what kind of person I am by now,” Putin told Shrebneva after they had been dating for nearly four years in 1983. “In general, I’m not easygoing. In three and a half years, you have probably made up your mind.”

At that time, Putin was working for the KGB, the Soviet Union’s much feared secret police. His main job, before being sent to East Germany two years later, was to monitor foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad.

For Shrebneva, “it sounded like we were breaking up.” When she told him that she had made up her mind, “he let out a doubtful ‘Yes?’”

Putin and Ludmilla arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport in 2003.
Pascal Le Segretain
The couple's wedding day.
The couple’s wedding day.
Russian Archives
The couple, pictured in front of the Taj Mahal in 2000, divorced in 2013.
The couple, pictured in front of the Taj Mahal in 2000, divorced in 2013.
JOHN MACDOUGALL

In fact, Shrebneva admitted that she “didn’t think much” of the poorly dressed man she had met at a theater on a double date in the late 1970s. But they kept in touch after the notoriously secretive Putin gave her his phone number.

‘The couple had two daughters, Mariya and Yekaterina, before divorcing in a staged television interview in 2013.

The divorce was confirmed when her name was later removed from Putin’s official biography on the Kremlin’s web site.

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