After the performance of "Esmeralda" at the Great Kremlin Palace, the two came into a luxurious room to speak to a reporter.
"Excellent. Great music, excellent production," Putin said and Lyudmila echoed his praise.
Speaking in a stilted but clearly staged interview on state television after a night together at the ballet, the couple said they had agreed to a "civilised break up" because they barely saw each other.
It appeared that a formal divorce had not yet taken place.
The Putins had just come from watching a performance of the ballet Esmeralda (based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame) in the Kremlin Palace theater when they staged their announcement in the form of a "spontaneous" interview with a state TV journalist. A much-repeated joke on Facebook Friday – which could become a self-fulfilling prophesy – is that Russian slang for "getting divorced" will in future be "going to see Esmeralda."
Divorce is common in Russia. Nearly 700,000 Russian couples dissolved their marriages in 2009, according to UNICEF. But Russian leaders, unlike their American counterparts, generally keep their domestic lives well out of public view and divorce among top officials in Russia is unprecedented.