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Russia's Kabayeva To Chair Board Of Pro-Kremlin Media Company

Russian State Duma Deputy Alina Kabayeva attends a musical performance in Moscow in March.

An Olympic gymnast who has denied rumors of a relationship with President Vladimir Putin will head the board of a major pro-Kremlin media conglomerate.

Russia's National Media Group said on September 15 that Alina Kabayeva had accepted an offer to chair its board of directors.

The company's holdings include part of state-run First Channel television and a majority stake in the daily Izvestia, a frequent platform for criticism of the West.

National Media Group is controlled by tycoon Yury Kovalchuk, who has been targeted by U.S. sanctions over what the U.S. Treasury Department called his role as the "personal banker" to senior officials including Putin.

Kabayeva, 31, won an Olympic gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics in 2004.

The State Duma said on September 15 that Kabayeva was resigning from parliament after six years as a ruling United Russia party lawmaker.

Reports of a romantic relationship between Putin and Kabayeva have persisted for years despite denials and "no-comments" from her and Kremlin officials.

Putin and his wife, Lyudmila, divorced earlier this year.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax