Was 'KGB' interrogation behind daily's retraction of Putin's marriage story?

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London, Apr 19 : After little-known Moscow newspaper the Moscow Korrespondent reported Russian President Vladimir Putin's plans to divorce his wife and marry a former gymnast Alina Kabaeva, officers of the Federal Security Service, the successor to the Russian intelligence agency KGB, reportedly went twice to interrogate the paper's editor about sources behind the story.

Yesterday, the paper had admitted that the story had "no factual basis" after Aleksandr Lebedev, the billionaire owner of the newspaper, challenged staff to back up the claims or apologize.

So alluring was the report of romance between Putin and Alina that publications all over Europe rushed to reprint a little-known Moscow newspaper's report that the former KGB officer had divorced his wife Lyudmila secretly and would marry his lover on June 15.

Putin (55) angrily reacted to a question about the rumours, saying: "In what you said, there is not one word of truth. I have always reacted negatively to those who with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies prowl into others' lives."

He noted that the lives of politicians were rightly visible to all but added: "There are limits and I have a private life in which I do not permit interference. It must be respected."

Alina (24) was noted for her extreme flexibility as a gymnast and won a gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics. She was dubbed one of "Putin's babes" after reports that the President had ordered his party United Russia to put her and other young women on its candidate list to give the pro-Kremlin party a sexier image in the elections last year. Ms Kabaeva, who has modeled naked, swathed in furs, now sits in the Duma, while United Russia elected Putin as its leader this week.

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