Newspaper that angered Putin closes
Moskovsky Korrespondent, the newspaper that first reported rumours of a marriage between Vladimir Putin and Alina Kabaeva, a 24-year-old gymnast, has closed, shortly after the President told journalists it was unacceptable to pry into his private life with "snotty noses and erotic fantasies" .
Mr Putin strongly denied that he had divorced his wife Ludmilla and planned a June wedding with Ms Kabaeva. The owner of the paper, Alexander Lebedev, had said he thought the story was "nonsense" and the editorial team admitted there was no factual basis to the story.
The head of the paper's parent company, Artem Artemov, told journalists the paper was being "temporarily halted" due to its lack of profitability, and insisted there was no political subtext to the decision. Most Russian media obey the Kremlin line that Mr Putin's private life is off limits.
Mr Lebedev is a billionaire who has good relations with the Kremlin but also co-owns the sharply oppositionist Novaya Gazeta, where the murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya worked. There are suggestions the incident may have been an attempt to set up Mr Lebedev by hardliners involved in a Kremlin turf war.
Sergey Topol, who wrote the story, told The Independent yesterday that he was planning to report for work today as usual. "I heard that the newspaper has been suspended, but not closed down," he said. He also insisted he had not been questioned by the security services over the story. He had based it on a contact in a St Petersburg firm that was allegedly bidding for a secret tender to host the wedding.