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'Looking so happy' - Russians react to Putin divorce

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Media captionThe couple revealed their decision on divorce on state TV

News that President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila are divorcing has dominated social media in Russia.

Friday's trending topics among Twitter's Russian-language community included "divorce" and "Putin".

Some reacted on an emotional level to news that the First Couple were not immune to the country's high rate of marital breakdowns.

Others speculated as to what the news might say about the leader's authoritarian character.

The announcement was made in a joint interview with a Russian TV crew, just after the couple had returned from viewing the ballet Esmeralda (a version of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).

'Honourable step'

There appeared to be some genuine sympathy on Twitter both for Mr Putin and his wife of nearly 30 years.

"They took the honourable step with regard to one another," wrote one blogger.

On his LiveJournal blog, Russian internet pioneer Anton Nosik said the announcement of the divorce was a "real man's deed, worthy of Benedict XVI", who resigned as Pope this year.

"I feel sorry for Lyuda," wrote a female tweeter, while a daughter remarked, "I hope Mum will at least now stop idolising Putin".

A male tweeter remarked: "I have seen more than a few women either divorced or getting divorced but it's the first time I've seen one looking so happy."

Another tweeter, who was evidently referring to Mr Putin's matches with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and a much-publicised Siberian wildlife stunt, wrote: "Instead of playing badminton with his little friend and chasing cranes, the old [expletive] should have devoted a bit more time to his wife."

New partner?

Even opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, a vehement critic of the three-term president, wrote: "Putin very rarely does anything honest. Announcing his divorce is honest."

Image copyright AP
Image caption This photo shows the presidential couple on a visit to Tokyo in 2000

Liberal journalist Matvei Ganapolsky speculated that Mr Putin might emerge a happier person and better leader.

"His unhappy family life was an obvious burden, you could see this," he wrote.

"Perhaps this was the source of the anger that he was transferring from his wife on to everyone, his bile and outbursts of rage? Being scared of breaking off the relationship, he subconsciously took it out on those around him."

Opposition bloggers suggested Mr Putin was clearing the way for a spectacular remarriage, perhaps in time for the Sochi Olympics - or even that there might be new little Putin on the way.

"The fact that the divorce is being announced publicly means that Masha and Katya [Putin's adult daughters] will probably have a brother or a sister in less than nine months' time," wrote journalist Dmitry Gubin.

Conservative journalist Dmitry Olshansky took a look back at Russian and Soviet history.

While Tsar Nicholas II and Mikhail Gorbachev had been very fond of their wives, they failed as rulers, he remarked. By contrast, Joseph Stalin was never known to be a loving husband, yet was "still with us in many ways".

Bets on Kirill

Inevitably, the political wisecracks came in thick and heavy.

"When a woman divorces, its something to talk about," joked one male blogger. "When a man divorces, it's a fresh impulse for new work, like a fourth presidential term."

For a woman tweeter, "Lyudmila Putin is the only Russian who was able to break free from Putin".

Another blogger had fun wondering how the head of the famously conservative Russian Orthodox Church would react to news that the president was taking the un-Christian step of divorce.

"Will Patriarch Kirill approve the Putins' divorce or condemn it?" he wrote. "Gentlemen, lay your bets." In the event, the head of the Church was said to be calling on Christians to pray for the presidential couple.

Elsewhere on Twitter, a cartoon was circulating which showed a delighted Mr Putin dancing a jig with Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and France's Nicolas Sarkozy, both of whom also divorced while in national office.

Comments compiled by Patrick Jackson and BBC Monitoring. BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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