* Putin secretive about his family, private life
* Media focus on what may be daughter's role
By Maria Tsvetkova
MOSCOW, Jan 29 One of Vladimir Putin's main
opponents may have broken a taboo by publishing what he says is
the pseudonym used by one the Russian president's daughters to
stay out of the spotlight.
Putin has made his and his family's private life little less
than a state secret, keeping his rarely-photographed daughters
Yekaterina, 28, and Maria, 29, out of sight and managing his
divorce with the minimum fuss.
But opposition blogger Alexei Navalny on Thursday published
on his Facebook page an online report which identified a certain
Katerina Vladimirovna Tikhonova as the head of an organization
working with Moscow State University.
A separate report on Wednesday by RBC, an independent
multi-media holding, stated Tikhonova was among those heading a
$1.7 billion project to build new University facilities but it
did not make any connection between her and Putin.
Navalny wrote on his Facebook page: "RBC (they are cool!)
yesterday found Putin's daughter in the Scientific Council of
Moscow State University."
A source close to Moscow State University confirmed
Tikhonova was Putin's daughter, telling Reuters on condition of
anonymity: "Yes, it is her."
Tikhonova could not be reached for comment.
The Kremlin often brushes aside questions about Putin's
private life, defending his right it privacy. Asked about the
woman's identity, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "I don't
know who she is."
Asked whether Putin's daughter works for Moscow State
University, he answered: "I don't know. It's not my job. I deal
with the president, not with his children."
$1.7 BILLION PROJECT
RBC, which has a television channel, a newspaper and
Internet portal, wrote on Wednesday about a development project
under which Moscow State University, one of the country's most
prestigious, would be expanded.
Under the headline "Who stands behind the MSU expansion", it
wrote that Tikhonova was in charge of Innopraktika, an
organisation that was helping prepare the $1.7 billion project.
RBC did not make any direct link to Putin, although it said
several influential businessmen who are his allies were involved
in the project, and said Tikhonova had declined an interview
request. Innopraktika declined to comment to Reuters.
Sergey Aleksashenko, a former official at the central bank
who is now an opposition figure, questioned in a blog whether it
was correct for Tikhonova to hold such a role in a business
project if she is indeed Putin's daughter.
"If this is true, it means that Vladimir Putin has crossed
one of those 'red lines' he once drew for himself," he wrote.
Putin is so secretive about his family that most Russians
have no idea what his daughters look like. It is also not public
knowledge where his ex-wife Lyudmila is living since their
divorce was finalised last year.
Putin did, however, say in November that his daughters both
live in Russia and he sees them once or twice a month.
Media reports last year said Maria had lived in the
Netherlands until Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down
over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people, many of them Dutch
nationals. She fled after the local mayor called for her
deportation, though he later retracted his comments.
Putin's spokesman denied rumours five years ago that
Yekaterina planned to marry the son of a South Korean general.
Putin and Lyudmila announced their breakup to a television
interviewer in June 2013 and they formally divorced in April
last year after more than 30 years of marriage.
Putin said in 2008 there was no truth to a newspaper report
that he was preparing to marry Olympic rhythmic gymnast Alina
Kabayeva, who was born in 1983.
He told journalists at the time to keep their "snotty noses"
out of his private affairs and the newspaper, Moskovsky
Korrespondent, folded shortly afterwards.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, Writing by Timothy Heritage;
editing by Janet McBride)