The U.S. just sanctioned the oligarch who married Putin's daughter

The U.S. government press release puts on record an intimate detail of Putin’s family life, which he's taken pains to conceal.
April 6, 2018, 2:45pm

The latest round of U.S. sanctions targets some of the richest men close to Vladimir Putin, but one name comes with particularly personal significance: Kirill Shamalov, 36, the businessman reputed to have married one of Putin’s daughters.

That relationship to Putin, slipped without fanfare into a buttoned-up government press release on Friday, puts an official U.S. statement on record about an intimate detail of Putin’s family life, which the Russian president has gone to enormous lengths to conceal from public scrutiny.

On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department said it was designating Shamalov, along with 37 other Russian individuals and entities, on a list of sanctions as blanket punishment for Russia’s aggressive international activities, including military action in eastern Ukraine and attempts to subvert democratic elections.

Shamalov, however, is special. Reporters in Russia, including from Western outlets Reuters and Bloomberg, have led deep-dive investigations aimed at uncovering the state of his relationship to Putin’s daughter. Reuters has dug into the hush-hush 2013 wedding — saying that all guests were sworn to secrecy, and the couple rode in on a traditional Russian sleigh drawn by three white horses. In January, Bloomberg reported that the two had separated, citing unnamed sources, but that it remained unclear whether they had finalized a divorce.

A former KGB lieutenant colonel with a legendary penchant for cloak-and-dagger operations, Putin has kept his daughters and grandchildren shrouded in official secrecy despite almost two decades in the world spotlight. The Kremlin has never provided official pictures of his daughters as adults. People who go on the record publicly identifying them have been known, on multiple occasions, to promptly deny their own previous statements.

READ: Putin is obsessed with keeping his daughters' identities secret

The Treasury Department didn’t delve into the current state of the couple’s matrimonial affairs. But it did explicitly point out that Shamalov became a billionaire shortly after his wedding.

“Kirill Shamalov is being designated for operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy,” Treasury said in a statement. “Shamalov married Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova in February 2013, and his fortunes drastically improved following the marriage.”

Treasury said that within 18 months of tying the knot, Shamalov acquired a large stake in Sibur, a Russian energy company. A year later, he was able to borrow more than $1 billion with a loan from Russian state-owned Gazprombank, an entity that has also been sanctioned by the U.S.

That same year, Gennady Timchenko, a longtime Putin associate and oil man who’s also been hit with sanctions, sold an additional 17 percent stake in Sibur to Shamalov, according to the Treasury Department statement on Friday.

“Shortly thereafter, Kirill Shamalov joined the ranks of the billionaire elite around Putin,” Treasury said.

Cover image: File from April 2016. Sibur Holding board member Kirill Shamalov at the National Oil and Gas Forum. (Kirill Kallinikov/Sputnik via AP)