Russian President Vladimir Putin's younger daughter and the man she has described as her spouse may be worth billions. Her true identity, unknown till recently, has been revealed as Katerina Tikhonova, deputy vice-rector at Moscow State University.
Tikhonova, 29, is said to be in a relationship with Kirill Shamalov, 33, son of a Putin friend, Nikolai Shamalov, who is a senior shareholder in Bank Rossiya. The bank, according to the US, has acted as a personal bank for the Russian political elite and faces US sanctions.
According to a report by Reuters, the couple's wealth -- estimated at $2bn (£1.3bn, €2.5bn ) -- comes from a large stake in a gas and petrochemicals company that Shamalov acquired from Gennady Timchenko, another close friend of Putin. The couple also own a four-storey cliff-top villa in Biarritz town in France, estimated to be worth £2.4m. The property was also acquired from Timchenko, a commodities trader. However, there is nothing to suggest any wrongdoing by the couple.
Putin's elder daughter, Maria, studied at MSU and is said to be building a career in endocrinology.
Tikhonova heads both the National Intellectual Development Foundation (NIDF) and National Intellectual Reserve Centre (NIRC), that runs the project "Innopraktika" to support young Russian scientists at Moscow State University (MSU). She has won contracts worth 182 million rubles (£1.9m) from state-owned companies such as Rosneft, Rosatom and Transneft for the groups.
"I knew it was Putin's daughter. But of course we took the decision to support MSU's projects irrespective of any family connections." Andrey Akimov, deputy chairman of Gazprombank, told Reuters. He also said Gazprombank's "global idea of supporting scientific development" coincided with the project.
Kremlin has "no information whatsoever about the personal life, family connection, marital status, academic activities, involvement in particular projects and family tree" of Tikhonova, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Putin was earlier this year named the most powerful man for the third consecutive year by Forbes magazine. In April, he declared his income for 2014 at a modest £77,000.