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Vladimir Putin, wife, announce their divorce

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife, Lyudmila, said yesterday they are divorcing after nearly 30 years of marriage, making the announcement on state television after attending a ballet performance at the Kremlin.

"It was our joint decision," the president said. Lyudmila Putin, a former Aeroflot flight attendant, was rarely seen in public during her husband's long tenure at the top of Russian politics and implied that she didn't like to travel with him on his frequent trips.

"I don't like publicity and flying is difficult for me," she said.

The Putins have two daughters, Maria and Yekaterina. In the televised announcement, Putin appeared reserved and Lyudmila smiled tentatively.

"We practically never saw each other. To each his own life," Putin said.

Lyudmila Putin said, "We will eternally be very close people. I'm thankful . . . that he supports me."

Rumors have followed the pair for years. In 2008, Putin dismissed a tabloid claim that he intended to marry a former Olympic gymnast less than half his age, saying, "I like all Russian women."

There have been hints that Lyudmila Putin was unhappy. -- AP

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