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Putin’s former ally & Olympic champion, Isinbayeva, flees Russia

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Yelena Isinbayeva, one of Russia’s greatest and most decorated athletes, has abandoned her Russian home and friend, President Vladimir Putin, and fled to Spain where she now resides with her family.

Apart from being a career sports woman, Isinbayeva is also very active in politics, supporting the constitution amendment that will allow Puting to remain in power till 2036.

In fact, she, along with other well-known Russian athletes, musicians, actors and activists, was part of the ‘Putin Team’ in 2017 to support the president in his 2018 presidential campaign, a feat she repeated for the 2020 campaign.

On May 16, 2015, the athlete was promoted to the rank of “Major” in the Russian Army by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The following year, she was awarded the medal ‘For Strengthening the Military Community’ after visiting Khmeimim Air Base in Syria.

Isinbayeva is well remembered for her support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine which prompted sanctions from the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelensky.

Yelena Isinbayeva was once a proud Russian but not anymore
Yelena Isinbayeva was once a proud Russian but not anymore

On February 27, 2023, Zelensky banned her from entering Ukraine for 50 years, with her financial assets in the country, including properties, frozen. But she doesn’t seem to care.

Three other athletes, Shamil Tarpischev (former tennis player), Alexander Popov (former swimmer) and Vitaly Smirnov (former water polo player), suffered a similar fate.

Seemingly to add pomp to her popularity and proximity to the Russian government, she trumpeted her support for Russian actions after the invasion of Ukraine.

Isinbayeva, an important figure in the Russian and world athletics, had it all, bringing her home country two Olympic gold medals in the pole vault and is still the world record holder in the discipline.

Then things suddenly and inexplicably went south as she, without warning, opted for a new life in the beautiful city of Tenerife, Spain.

Though once recognised as a heroine in her home country, things aren’t looking rosy between Isinbayeva and Russia right now, especially after she fled the Eastern European power bloc.

According to latest information, Isinbayeva left Russia and chose the Canary Island of Tenerife, precisely in Arona, a town with just over 40,000 inhabitants, to start a new life with her husband Nikita Petinow and their two children.

El Digital Sur, a Spanish newsppaer, confirmed that Isinbayeva’s two children were enrolled at a school in the south of Tenerife, another piece of information that suggests the family’s full relocation to Spain.

In July 2023, Isinbayeva announced that she would return to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) Athletes Commission in September to carry out the role she previously held and from which she resigned pending an investigation into her ties to the Russian armed forces.

She confirmed that she is set to carry out her former duties since that investigation has closed.

Reacting to her alleged controversial ties with the Army after months of silence, Isinbayeva wrote in a post on Instagram:

“The titles were a formality because I do not serve in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and have never served.”

As a backlash to her decision to dump Russia, Sergei Malekov, president of Dagestan – one of the republics that make up Russia, announced in September that they would remove Isinbayeva’s name from an athletics stadium.

He suggested that “they name a pavilion in Spain in honor of her”, highlighting just how on the outer the former pole vaulter is with her own country now.

On her part, the former athlete responded in an Instagram post, written in Spanish: “I am a global citizen, I always have been and I will continue to be.”

The comments, especially those in Russian, clearly indicates why Isinbayeva might prefer to spend the better part of her life in another soil.

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