Putin arrests journalists who exposed his 'secret love child' after affair with cleaner-turned-millionaire lover

VLADIMIR Putin has arrested the journalists who exposed his "secret love child" after an alleged affair with his cleaner-turned-millionaire lover.

The crackdown comes after Russian media outlet Proekt named Svetlana Krivonogikh as the mother of Putin's illegitimate daughter, 18-year-old Luiza Rozova, also known as Elizaveta Krivonogikh.

The opposition news website first published the bombshell claims in November last year.

It claimed flight logs showed how Krivonogikh, now 47, often joined Putin on planes in the late 1990s, including during the period when he headed the feared FSB counterintelligence service. 

And the media outlet consulted Hassan Ugail, a visual computing expert at Bradford University, who concluded Elizaveta "bears a phenomenal resemblance to the Russian president".

Face-recognition software allegedly showed a 70.44 per cent similarity between Putin, 68, and the teen.

The Russian strongman has never acknowledged Elizaveta as being his daughter, after her existence was first reported on last year.

But cops raided the homes of Roman Badanin, the editor of Proekt, and Maria Zholobova, another journalist, on Tuesday and removed computers, phones and flash drives from their flats, The Times reports.

Mikhail Rubin, Proekt's deputy editor, was also arrested as he arrived at Zholobova's home.

According to The Times, Badinin, 51, shouted "Russia will be free!" as he was detained for questioning by police.

Badanin's lawyers said he was taken in for questioning in connection with a defamation case involving Ilya Traber, an alleged crime boss with reported links to Putin, during a documentary which was released online in 2017.

Cops confirmed the raids were connected to allegations of defamation – but gave no other details.

The Kremlin denied that the police raids were revenge for Proekt’s investigative journalism.

"There are legitimate grounds for such actions," Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said.

Putin became close to Krivonogikh in the late 1990s, at the time his career was on a steep upward trajectory, Proekt said.

The Russian president's alleged former mistress had once worked as a "cleaning lady" and lived in a shared flat in St Petersburg.

But after meeting Putin, she moved into "the most elite housing that a St Petersburg resident could wish for" and now owns a nightspot featuring "erotic shows"

She is known to be close to his longtime oligarch friend Yury Kovalchuk, the biggest shareholder in Bank Rossiya, which was sanctioned by the West after Russia’s 2014 military annexation of Crimea. 

Krivonogikh's business and property portfolio is worth an estimated £75 million today, according to Proekt.

Questioned about Putin relationship's with Krivonogikh last year, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "I’ve been asked about this last name.

"But I’ve never heard anything about it and I don’t know anything."

The relationship is said to have ended around the time Putin began to be romantically linked to Olympic gold medallist Alina Kabaeva, 37, now head of a major pro-Kremlin media company.

Putin has two adult daughters Maria, 35, and Katerina, 34, from his marriage to former Kremlin first lady Lyudmila Putina, which ended in 2013. 

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