Is There A Sinister Reason Putin Is Keeping His Daughters Out Of The Spotlight?

Russian President Vladimir Putin applies image management liberally to everything, from controlling which social media networks the Russian people are allowed to use to how much information they know about their president. Putin wants his people to see him as masculine power personified. When people try to break through the carefully crafted façade, there are swift and dire consequences. 

Marina Ovsyannikova, who the BBC explains was an editor at Channel One, one of Russia's state-controlled channels, bravely interrupted a live news broadcast to try and get the message of what was really happening in Ukraine out to the Russian people. According to the BBC, Ovsyannikova was detained and questioned for 14 hours following the incident. She was denied both sleep and legal aid during her detainment as well. 

Publicly, her punishment was a 30,000 ruble fine, which amounts to about $374, but a fine isn't what's keeping Ovsyannikova in hiding and afraid for her life. "Of course, I'm afraid," Ovsyannikova told German news site Der Spiegel. "Very afraid even ... Anything could happen — a car accident, anything they want." 

All of this careful curation of the public's perception seems to stem from one thing: Putin's fear of appearing weak. Fighting this fear may cost Ovsyannikova her life, and is costing Ukrainians their lives every day this war continues. 

When a fresh round of sanctions issued by the United States, European Union, and United Kingdom rolled out last week, many were shocked to find Vladimir Putin's daughters on the list, per The New York Times. There is little known about Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova, and it's not because people aren't curious.

Putin sees family as a weakness that can be exploited

Russian President Vladimir Putin manages his fear of looking weak by doing what so many often do: showing off how masculine and powerful he wants everyone to think he is. 

Americans are used to seeing families used as an image of strength, especially by politicians. Of First Lady Jill Biden, President Joe Biden has said that she was responsible for helping to put him and his family back together after the tragic death of his first wife and one-year-old daughter, per Oprah Daily. Former President Donald Trump used his children as advisers during his time in the White House. 

However, for Putin, family is a weakness. German filmmaker Hubert Seipel was able to make a documentary about Putin in 2010 and 2011, Newsweek reports, because he agreed not to reveal anything Putin did not want him to. "He is very sensitive," Seipel explained at the film's premiere, per Newsweek, "and I promised him not to expose very much about his family." Exposing information about Putin's family comes at a cost. According to Newsweek, an editor at Russian newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent was forced to resign within hours of reporting about Putin planning to marry Alina Kabayeva, a rhythmic gymnast. 

In a panel this week on CNN, Professor Howard Stoffer explained the reason Putin doesn't want anyone to know about his family is because Putin believes that information can be used against him. In other words, they leave him vulnerable to attack. 

If no one knows who Putin's family is, or where they are, they can't use them to get to him.