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Putin Denies Kabayeva Marriage
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Russian President Vladimir Putin denied reports of a marriage to rhythmic star Alina Kabayeva Friday, while the Moscow tabloid that first reported the engagement was abruptly shut down after refusing to retract the story.

Vladimir Putin and Alina Kabayeva

Putin, 55, denied an upcoming marriage to the 24-year-old champion Friday at a news conference in Italy, where he was meeting with Italy's new prime minister-elect.

"There is not one word of truth in what you have said," Putin told the Russian journalist who brought up the issue. "I have always reacted negatively to those who — with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies — prowl into others' lives."

The rumor of Putin's marriage to Kabayeva has made worldwide headlines since newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent (Moscow Correspondent) first published the report, which stated the pair were planning to marry June 15. Putin's term expires in May.

On Thursday, Moskovsky Korrespondent published an editorial apologizing for any offense the story might have caused, but did not retract it, reported Reuters.

"We stand by our story — we had information and we reported it," Igor Dudinsky, Moskovsky Korrespondent's deputy editor-in-chief, told Reuters.

The newspaper was shut down Friday by its publishing group, which claimed the decision had nothing to do with the Kabayeva report. The paper's Web site, www.moscor.ru, was also closed down Friday.

Alina Kabayeva

London's Times Online reported that officers from the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, twice visited the office of Moskovsky Korrespondent this week to interrogate the editors about the newspaper's sources.

Mainstream Russian newspapers, which Western journalism groups criticize as being controlled by the Kremlin, typically shy away from reporting on any aspect of Putin's private life.

Western media, however, have reported widely on the rumor since the story first broke, focusing equally on Kabayeva's centerfold pictorials as on her extraordinary gymnastics achievements.

Kabayeva is among a handful of young women the media have dubbed "Putin's Babes," a group elected in 2007 to the Russian parliament to represent Putin's United Russia party. Artistic gymnastics superstar Svetlana Khorkina is among the group of United Russia deputies.

In Italy, Putin said Russian women are "the most talented and beautiful" in the world, and that he likes all of them.

"In other publications of the same type, the names of other successful, beautiful young women from Russia are mentioned," he said. "I think it won't be unexpected if I say that I like them all — just as I like all Russian women."

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