Vladimir Putin on Thursday admitted he is in love, fuelling rumours over a relationship with Olympic gymnast Alina Kabayeva.
Denying he had 'completely gone wild' in his romantic life, the divorced strongman revealed that he 'loves' and is loved in return, but refused to disclose the identity of his mystery partner.
If true, it could mean that Russia's 'most eligible man' is no longer available.
Putin has been leading bachelor's life for more than a year since he split with wife Lyudmila after 30 years of marriage.
The subject of Putin's private life has been seen as taboo in Moscow but yesterday he was asked by a journalist at his annual press conference if he had time for the opposite sex.
The 62 year old replied: 'I do, I tell you'.
By contrast, when reports first emerged six years ago linking him to Kabayeva, now 31, he angrily denounced 'those who with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies prowl into others' lives'.
It is more than a year since he broke from Lyudmila, mother of his two grown-up daughters who are never seen in public.
He told journalists on Thursday: 'A friend of mine from Europe, a big boss, recently asked me, after what happened last year: "Listen, is there a love in your life?"
'I say: "In what sense?" "Do you love anyone?" I say, "yes".
"And does anyone love you?" I say, "yes". He must have decided that I had completely gone wild.
'"Thank God", he said, before downing the vodka. Everything is fine. Do not worry.'
Until now, the Kremlin has refused to discuss his private life, nor rumours that he already has a secret second family.
Whatever the case, Putin says he remains close to Lyudmila.
'I have very a good, friendly relationship," he explained. "We regularly see each other.
'Not to mention the children, which goes without saying. This does not happen as often I would like, but everything is fine.'
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