Russian President Vladimir Putin Announces Divorce on State TV

Vladimir Putin Meeting Russian Filmmakers 2013 H

The news comes after years of speculation -- and a rare public outing of the couple at a Kremlin ballet performance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used an interview on state run television channel Rossiya 24 late Thursday to end years of speculation that he and his wife Lyudmila are divorcing.

The interview, which followed a rare public outing by the Putins at a ballet at the State Kremlin Palace, confirmed Moscow's worst kept secret -- that the couple have not lived together for years.

The announcement, after 30 years of marriage, follows years of speculation on the precise circumstances of the couple's affairs, including rumors that Lyudmila had entered an Orthodox convent.

Putin's closely controlled style of 'managed democracy' is partially responsible for the speculation. Happy to show off his macho man image in stage-managed episodes such as flying a microlight aircraft with Siberian cranes or diving for (planted) ancient amphorae in the Black Sea, he is intensely secretive about his home life with few details ever given out about his marriage or the couples now grown up two daughters.

Asked if it was true the couple was no longer living together, 60-year-old Putin said that was the case.

Fifty-five year old Lyudmila said it had been "our common decision -- and due to the fact that we barely see each other."

Commenting on the couple's daughters, who are in their 20s, Putin said: "We really love our children, are very proud of them and see them regularly."

They had last been seen together in public in May 2012 at Putin's inauguration for a third term. 

During his first term from 2000-04, Lyudmila accompanied her husband on several foreign trips, but by his second term, he went alone.

Five years ago he denied rumors that he was about to divorce Lyudmila in order to marry Alina Kabaeva, now 30, a gymnast and member of Parliament for Putin's ruling party, United Russia.