A senior Russian banker has denied identifying the younger daughter of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, as an official at Moscow State University, after an investigation by Reuters news agency reported the extent of her wealth.
Andrey Akimov, deputy chairman of Gazprombank, challenged a report published on Tuesday in which he was quoted identifying Katerina Tikhonova, a deputy vice-rector at the university, as Mr Putin’s daughter.
Ms Tikhonova, 29, whose true identity was unknown until this year, has corporate holdings worth an estimated £1.3 billion along with her partner, according to Reuters.
Ms Tikhonova has described herself as the spouse of Kirill Shamalov, who has a stake in a gas and petrochemical company and is the son of an old friend of Putin. The two also own a £2.4 million house in Biarritz.
Mr Putin is reportedly rather more modest: in April, he declared an income for 2014 of 7.65 million roubles (£77,000). He listed the ownership of two modest apartments and a share in a car parking garage.
Mr Putin is very secretive about his family, to the extent that very few people know what his daughters look like.
Both Mr Putin’s daughters live in Moscow, and he has said he sees them once every two weeks. His elder daughter Maria, 30, is thought to be an endocrine specialist and married to a Dutch businessman.
Ms Tikhonova heads a project at the university called Innopraktika, which assists young scientists. She also has competed for years as a rock’n’roll dancer.
In 2013, she and her dancing partner came fifth in a world championship event in Switzerland.
In its report, in which there is no suggestion or evidence of any wrong-doing, Reuters quoted Mr Akimov as saying about Ms Tikhonova: “I knew it was Putin’s daughter.
But of course we took the decision to support MSU’s (Moscow State University’s) projects irrespective of any family connections.”
In a statement in response to the report, Gazprombank said: “Mr Akimov was surprised and bewildered when he read the report by Reuters news agency in which he is credited with the statement that the head of ‘Innopraktika’, Ms Tikhonova, is supposedly the daughter of the President of the Russian Federation. It is not so.”
Gazprombank added: “Mr Akimov made no such statements”.
In its report, Reuters said it confirmed the identity of Ms Tikhonova through two other sources in addition to Mr Akimov. The news agency stood by its account of Mr Akimov’s remarks.
Mr Putin’s press secretary said: “I have already seen Akimov’s denial in which he says he is absolutely surprised with the Reuters information and has never said anything of the kind.”
He added: “But as for who Putin’s daughter is, I cannot tell you anything because I do not have and I am not supposed to have this information. It’s not part of my administrative duties”.
The couple, who declined to comment for the Reuters article, are among a new generation of Russians enjoying a rapid rise in the wake of their well-connected parents.
The phenomenon bears similarities to the “princelings” of China – the children and grandchildren of Communist Party leaders who have gone on to gain positions of power and amass great wealth.