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Lyudmila Putina, Vladimir Putin's Wife, Missing From The Public Eye

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Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, left, and his wife Lyudmila leave a polling station in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, left, and his wife Lyudmila leave a polling station in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Russia's Prime Minister and soon-to-be President (again) Vladimir Putin has captured international headlines of late.

His 54-year-old wife Lyudmila, however, has been conspicuously absent from the public eye and the Russian rumor mill has been quick to offer explanations.

Could she be pregnant? Pushed aside as Putin courts bombshell spy Anna Chapman? Or rather for rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva?

The Moscow Post, which The Moscow Times calls "one of the fiefdoms of the massive online empire run directly by the presidential administration" reports that Lyudmila is rumored to be pregnant for a third time and is currently under observation in a Munich hospital.

The Daily Mail goes as far as to suggest that Putin may have kindled a romance with Russian bombshell Anna Chapman, who was sent back to Russia from the United States as part of a spy swap in 2010. After all, a business associate of Chapman's told Capital New York that the beauty once took a ride in Putin's private submarine.

Alternatively, The Daily Mail suggests that Putin may be seeing Russian Olympic gold medallist Alina Kabayeve -- with whom the president was allegedly having wedding plans in 2008 -- or Lyudmila may also be "just locked away in a monastery."

Putin has worked hard to keep his family life out of the press. The to-be president and his wife rarely appear in public together and as the Daily Mail notes, photographs of Putin's daughters Mariya and Yekaterina have never been published.

Time writes that commenting on divorce-rumors in 2008, Putin said : "I am, of course, aware of the hackneyed phrase and stamp that politicians live in a glass house.. But even in these cases, there must be some limits ... I always thought badly of those who go around with their erotic fantasies sticking their snot-ridden noses into another person's life."

Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a member of the United Russia party and an expert on Russian elite, told the Guardian that the first lady's absence from public life is not exceptional in Russia. "For western people, maybe it's strange. For Russians, it's totally normal," Kryshtanovskaya said according to the newspaper.

The Moscow Times notes that Lyudmila Putina was last seen in public on March 4 for election day.