A new Russian first lady? Putin is not saying - yet

Slideshow ( 4 images )

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin lowered his guard a fraction about his private life on Thursday, saying he may one day tell the Russian people if he is in a romantic relationship.

Since he divorced his wife Ludmila in 2013, rumors have swirled around Putin. One Russian newspaper report said he was in a relationship with Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast, though Putin rejected the assertion.

During a televised phone-in, an annual event where Putin fields questions from ordinary Russians, one woman asked Putin if he was going to re-marry.

A visibly uncomfortable Putin avoided giving a direct answer, saying he believed Russians were more interested in his performance as president than they were in his private life.

But at the end of his answer, he softened, saying: “Maybe one day I will be able to satisfy your curiosity.”

Reuters last month reported that a businessman with ties to associates of Putin had transferred ownership of properties to Alina Kabaeva's sister and grandmother. (For article click here )

Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Alex Winning; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Osborn