“Take the Female Russian National. Papadopoulos, according to the plea agreement, believed her to be Vladimir Putin’s niece. To have a niece, however, the Russian President would have had to have a sibling. All of the available biographies of Putin, both official and unauthorized, agree: the Russian President had two older brothers who died as children, before Vladimir was born. He was an only child. He doesn’t have a niece.”
While it is definitely true Putin doesn’t have a niece in the English sense of the word, it seems he does have a niece in the Russian sense of the word.
Many Russians refer to what English speakers call cousins as their “brothers” and “sisters,” without specifying that these blood relatives are in fact двоюродные братья and сестры, something on the order of “brothers and sisters once removed.”
It took me exactly five seconds of digging on the internet to find out Putin has a двоюродная племянница, meaning the niece of a cousin or a “niece once removed,” so to speak.
In this case, the cousin’s name is Igor Putin, and Igor Putin has a niece named Vera Putina. That makes Vera Putina Vladimir Putin’s двоюродная племянница.
It is entirely conceivable that Vladimir Putin and other Putin family members simply refer to Vera as Vladimir Putin’s племянница or niece.
As Gessen points out toward the end of her article, Papadopolous later learned the Russian woman in question was not Putin’s relative after all.
However, Putin seemingly does have a niece in the broader Russian sense of the term, despite what Gessen has said on the subject.
I can even vouch for Vera Putina’s existence, because I have a close friend who has met her in person on a few occasions.
You can read what Vera Putina does in this article about her and other members of Vladimir Putin’s extended family, published in 2015 by the independent Russian-language news website Meduza. TRR