Moscow, Apr 18: As outgoing President Vladimir Putin dismissed media reports that he was set to marry a former Olympic rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva in June, the 'Moskovsky Korrespondent' tabloid today tendered an apology for publishing the report. Mr Putin told a news conference in Italy that the claims were 'pure gossip' and had 'no word of truth' in them. He was speaking to reporters after his talks with the Italian PM-elect Silvio Berlusconi during his last foreign trip as President.
''There is no factual basis for our publishing the report'' on the alleged Putin's plan to marry Kabayeva, 25, born to a Muslim father in Uzbekistan. She is one of Russia's best known athletes who also posed for the Russian edition of Playboy. 'Moskovsky Korrespondent' also said it could not prove the marriage plan of Mr Putin and apologised for the 'moral pain' caused to Putin's family.
The tabloid had also said Mr Putin, 56, had already divorced his wife Ms Lyudmila, a 50-year-old former air hostess. They have two daughters.
Ms Kabayeva was elected to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, last December on the ticket of pro-Kremlin ruling United Russia Party.
She won the gymnastics gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. But she was stripped of her medals won at the 2001 World Championships after testing positive for diuretics.