Several weeks have passed since the United States and its allies first imposed sanctions on Russia’s largest companies, businessmen and politicians on President Vladimir Putin.

However, one person survived at the last moment: Alina Kabaeva, a woman considered by the US government to be Putin’s lover and mother to at least three of his children, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Kabaeva, a former Olympic champion in rhythmic gymnastics, known in the sport for her extraordinary flexibility and an international doping scandal, is suspected of playing a role in hiding Putin’s personal assets abroad. It remains a potential target for sanctions.

There is a conviction among US officials analyzing next steps that imposing sanctions on Ms. Kabaeva would be such a personal blow to Putin that it could further escalate tensions between Russia and the United States. Putin, 69, has not admitted his affair with the 39-year-old. The Kremlin has long denied any connection between Putin and Kabaeva.

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In 2008, in response to press reports about his alleged relationship, Putin said: “I have never liked those who, with their prickly noses and erotic fantasies, invade the private affairs of others.”

Officially, Putin has two daughters from a long-term wife – 35-year-old Katerina Tikhonova and 36-year-old Maria Vorontsova. Both were punished by the United States

Officials said the actions against Kabaeva, who the US government has described as Putin’s “darling”, are among those seen as confrontational and that could further complicate peace negotiating efforts in Ukraine.

Kabaeva was born in Uzbekistan and soon left her education to focus on sports. She was 21 years old when she won a gold medal in artistic gymnastics at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The success made her become a star in Russia. During her career, she won 21 medals at the European Championships, 14 medals at the World Championships and two Olympic medals, including a bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.

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In 2001, Kabaeva was stripped of a medal at the World Cup in Madrid after testing positive for a banned diuretic. She claimed the substance came from contaminated tablets she had bought from a nearby pharmacy.

Since about 2013, Kabaeva and her relatives have acquired six apartments, two houses and hectares of land in four of the most exclusive regions of Russia.

Her 87-year-old grandmother, mother and sister bought luxury homes from businessmen close to Putin, including real estate in Saint Petersburg, as well as luxury apartments on one of the best streets of Moscow and in Sochi.