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A Spy In The House Of Putin

Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila Putina attend the Easter service at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in April 2011.
Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila Putina attend the Easter service at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in April 2011.
By Alexander Mannheim and Daisy Sindelar
The relationship between Russian Prime Minister and probable future President Vladimir Putin and his wife of 28 years, Lyudmila, has been alternately portrayed as a nightmare union and a love story for the ages.

While the truth probably lies somewhere in between, new revelations about Putin's KGB career in East Germany suggest marital harmony was not high on the future leader's agenda.

Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, a journalist and expert on German intelligence, says he has proof a female West German spy was able to infiltrate the Putin household during the family's five-year stay in Dresden, East Germany. Her discovery? That Putin was an enthusiastic womanizer and a violent bully who beat his wife.

Schmidt-Eenboom, who has written numerous books and papers on Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency, maintains that the agent, a young woman operating under the name Lenchen, or Lenochka, was tasked with digging up information about the KGB's military and economic activities in southern Germany.

"But she quickly became friends with Lyudmila Putina and became a kind of trusted confidante for her," he says. "Lyudmila told her that Vladimir frequently beat her, and often cheated on her, that he had had trysts with other women."

Vladimir Putin walks along a street in Dresden, where he was stationed from 1985 to 1990.
Vladimir Putin walks along a street in Dresden, where he was stationed from 1985 to 1990.
Schmidt-Eenboom, whose revelations were first published in the German newspaper "Berliner Zeitung," has dismissed suggestions that the information was given to him in order to discredit Putin as he prepares to resume his role as Russian president next year.

The reporter claims he first heard the story of Lenchen -- who also went by the nickname "Balcony" because of her buxom chest -- while talking to a former senior BND official earlier this year.

"Of course, as a journalist, I needed to find a second source," he says. "Several weeks ago, I managed to meet with a contact at the Verfassungsschutz, the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution, who also had this information at his disposal."

Lenchen, he says, was a Baltic German who spoke Russian and German with equal fluency -- a skill that made her ideally suited for her work in Dresden's small KGB bureau, where she officially worked as a translator for the Soviet Union's Western Forces based in East Germany.

An Uncompromising Patriarch And Red-Hot Lover

Lenchen eventually asked to be removed from her post after a romantic relationship with the KGB colonel heading the bureau left her pregnant and susceptible to the psychological stress of spying on the Putin family.

Her handlers recalled her to West Germany, where she was given a new identity and released from service. "She was compensated handsomely," Schmidt-Eenboom says. "She now lives a carefree life in southern Germany."

The new allegations are unlikely to tarnish Putin's image inside Russia, a country where marital indiscretions are considered both unremarkable and private.

Former Olympic gymnast and Russian Duma deputy Alina Kabayeva has been romantically linked with Putin.
Former Olympic gymnast and Russian Duma deputy Alina Kabayeva has been romantically linked with Putin.
If anything, the image of Putin as an uncompromising patriarch and red-hot lover are likely only to bolster the image of a leader whom "Forbes" magazine recently named as the world's second-most-powerful man.

In recent years, joint appearances by the couple have become as rare as Siberian yeti sightings. Putin has occasionally sought to brush off rumors that he and Lyudmila, a former Aeroflot stewardess, are in fact divorced.

The 59-year-old prime minister -- who is expected to return to the presidency next year after bumping incumbent Dmitry Medvedev out of his spot -- has been frequently linked to Alina Kabayeva, a former Olympic gymnast and one of the more toothsome members of the Russian Duma.

Awkward, Unflattering Moments

The Kremlin has, at times, set out to paint a rosy portrait of the Putins' marriage, at one point even producing a feature film -- "The Kiss is Off the Record," portraying the couple's early romance -- for a Valentine's Day release in 2008.

But such moments are far outnumbered by the times the couple, who have two daughters together, have frequently been caught in awkward or unflattering moments.

Putina, 53, is known to refer to her husband as "the Freezer" for his unemotional personality. Putin, in return, has remarked that "Anyone who can spend three weeks with Lyudmila deserves a monument."

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said he has no comment on the reports. A spokesman for the BND likewise declined to make a statement, saying only, "We do not discuss our methods or our investigations."

Schmidt-Eenboom notes that it was extremely rare for German intelligence agents to infiltrate KGB structures to the degree that Lenochka did with the Putins in Dresden, and that only one other agent -- a "Colonel Viktor" -- achieved similar success in the 1980s.

All of Lenochka's reports were passed on to the Verfassungsschutz as well as Germany's NATO allies. For all Putin's transgressions, however, Schmidt-Eenboom maintains that there was little in the Russian leader's file to interest the Western intelligence community -- at least, until he became president.

"Putin's dossier from the time would have been destroyed if he hadn't suddenly made such a dizzying political career for himself," he says. "After that, every tiny detail about his life suddenly became interesting."

Daisy Sindelar

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous from: USA
November 07, 2011 19:32
Not surprising. Bullies and tough talkers end up being the biggest cowards. Put them in harms way, where their lives are in danger, and they run away. Could anyone imagine Putin on a battlefield taking heavy gunfire? I can't. Hitler and Stalin were known to be bullies as well. Psychologists have found these people suffer from some kind of sadistic or superiority complex. Stalin's own personal doctor declared he was insane, before he suddenly vanished without a trace, no doubt killed by Stalin's henchmen.
In Response

by: Mamuka
November 08, 2011 04:59
Even I must express skepticism at these reports. Not that I dont believe, but why should this be a headline on RFE/RL?

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
November 07, 2011 23:55
Report smells fishy to me. All the allegations might be true, but why did the sources wait 10+ years to make these revelations? I’m guessing that there is some ulterior motive.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
November 08, 2011 09:42
Well Ray, all the business about a current Republican candidate making unwanted sexual advances when he was head of the national restaurant assoc. is roughly 10 years old, does that make it irrelevant?

Putin is a thug, and he is about to return to the Russian presidency with what will only be negative results.

I think that is pretty relevant.
In Response

by: Marie from: USA
November 09, 2011 11:59
I think the point is that Putin was president for eight years, and he's been prime minister for three. He was certainly involved in politics before that too, so that's at least eleven years--including at least three elections--for someone to bring up these accusations if there were any truth to them. Also, odds are that, if these accusations were actually true, there would've been some whisper about them before this. I don't pretend to know what goes on in the Putin household, but the timing of the accusations and the vagueness of the source cited (no real name, no person who's come forward confirming this, no explanation of how she got so close to the Putins, especially at a time when Putin was mostly a paper-pusher...) makes it difficult to believe.

by: hul from: usa
November 08, 2011 14:19
If he was so bad, why didn't she leave him? Divorce was common in Russia even in 1980s.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
November 09, 2011 02:02
If she left him, she would have to be killed. You don't just *LEAVE* the KGB. She was probably sworn to secrecy. BTW, isn't there a rumor she is living in a convent somewhere in Russia? That's just a form of house arrest so Putin can keep an eye on her.

by: Milovan Rafailovic from: Lake Placid, Florida
November 08, 2011 17:06
If that is true, it would well qualify him to become an American politician (or even a president) or a Baptist minister.

by: Johann from: USA
November 14, 2011 23:24
An Republican running in the presidental primary , has been accused of harrasing women. A famous protestant Tele-evangelist, is in prison for not reporting on his tax-report a huge Mansion that he secrtetly bought for his Mistress. The athorities found out, when another mistress, became jalous and burned down the Mansion, because her/His Mansion was not as big and fancy.
So have people forgotten the Italian Premier Belacuoni !!!

by: Vladimir from: Boston
November 18, 2011 21:57
Putin has never denied his relationship with his mistress Alina Kabayeva, a beauty, a famous public figure (he is MP, TV personality etc.) who is known to have no husband yet a baby -- from this MACHO MAN, naturally.
But this relationship only glorifies Putin's image in Russia where men think they would be doing absolutely the same in his place. There, openly betraying your homely, not glamorous wife with a young nice mistress is only normal. He is a role model there! So these new revelations bout Putin's past -- and a Western loatsome reaction to it -- can only magnify his glamour in Russia, alas. What a shame.

by: DavidKing from: Kaliningrad
November 18, 2011 22:31
Hi, guys. As a Russian living in Russia I'd like to make some comments too, if you have nothing agaist it. Personally, I don' t like Putin. However, I don't like the other side of the Russian politics either (they are all either children of their time or their heirs "at law"). Nevertheless, presidents come and go and they don't give a shit about what we think of them either here in Russia or somewhere else. Please don't be so naive and don't speculate on the difference in customs and traditions you believe exist in Russia as opposed to the West or East. There's absolutely no difference between you and us and our cuctoms in marriage, social life, politics, whatsoever (have you never visited Brighton Beach or you have never see Russians in your community??? do we really look like monkeys just getting down from the trees or what?). So many years have passed since the fall of the iron curtain and you still see any difference in everything including the American and Russian PR campaigns? The only difference for today is that the Russian president election campaign has been seriously boosted by your own media to a global scale and in Russia not a single Russian ever follows the US elections at all, because we are fed up with the games of our own Masters. IMHO Russians really don't give a shit if Monica Levinsky had sucked before the election or after. As far as our politics is concerned, it will take decades to get all that soviet debris that we have now out of politics in Russia. Only then we will have the possibility to make an alternative choice and get something fresh without a soviet odour. At the moment, it absolutely doesn't matter who rules here (anybody out there will be the same soviet shit with its own "dress train" like Lenochka or Lenchen). And, my dear friends, please don't be funny with your horror pics of "killing divorces" among KGB "family members". Such fables makes us Russians really smile.

by: eric from: los angeles
November 30, 2011 00:31
Politics are politics in Russia as in USA. But in the USA there are political consequences...in Russia, who cares...

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