Ksenia Shoigu, Sergey Shoigu and Alexey Stolyarov. Photo: social media
Fitness trainer Alexey Stolyarov has been relatively unknown until recently — but now, he even has his own Wikipedia page in Russian. His biggest accomplishment? Starting a family with Ksenia Shoigu, a daughter of Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu.
We follow his journey from a run-of-the-mill sports blogger to a member of the Russian elite who has ended up on Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s radar.
Jokester and patriot
Alexey Stolyarov was born and raised in St. Petersburg. Stolyarov initially worked as a personal fitness trainer but launched his professional blogger career in 2014. He started up a YouTube channel, offering gym tips and healthy lifestyle advice.
In his social media profiles, Stolyarov was enamoured by Russian President Vladimir Putin. For instance, he cheered for the news that Putin topped the list of the most influential people in the world for the fourth time with a caption “This is our PRESIDENT!”. Simultaneously, he was outraged that WADA disqualified all Russian athletes from international competitions over doping accusations and proudly branded himself as a patriot.
However, his preferred vacation spots were not in Russia: Rome, Florence, Paris, Prague, Geneva, New York, Florida resorts, and even the Ukrainian capital. The fitness blogger particularly liked to be photographed during his travels while jumping into the air or embracing his then-girlfriend.
In 2017, Stolyarov even posed at the Independence Square in Kyiv. He chose to show a V sign and caption the photo with a Ukrainian flag emoji. So, essentially he was doing something that he could get reported for in present-day Russia, or even charged with treason. By the way, one of Stolyarov’s friends wrote “Glory to Ukraine” in the comments below his photo.
In 2015-2019, the blogger continued to climb the career ladder. Stolyarov was invited to TV shows, which evidently paid him pretty well: he purchased a premium-class BMW and started promoting Mercedes cars on his social media.
Stolyarov and his ‘motivations’
In 2014-2016, the future son-in-law of Russia’s defence minister was dating Natalya Trifanova, a professional athlete and bikini fitness competition winner. He was referring to her publicly as his “guardian angel”, “backbone and support”, noting that “Together, we will make it far in life”.
However, it was not meant to be. Stolyarov soon moved on to Maria Sokolova, another fitness bikini bodybuilding tournament fixture. Sokolova was also his “support” and “motivation”.
However, this relationship did not last either, and Stolyarov found a new love interest, also from the fitness world. The couple promoted sports brands, recorded joint gym sessions, and posted photos on holidays together. The blogger lauded her as his “support” and “motivation”, too.
Maria Sokolova and Alexey Stolyarov. Photo: VK
Stolyarov, Ksenia Shoigu, and Russian taiga
Alexey met his main “motivation” (as of now, at least) in the summer of 2020. In July, he took part in a fitness marathon that was organised by Ksenia Shoigu, Russian defence minister’s daughter.
Ksenia was a year younger than the blogger but, as you can imagine, much higher than him in the social hierarchy. She graduated from a prestigious Moscow university with an international economy degree. Her career was different from that of Stolyarov and began with a bank internship. She then found employment with a government agency before moving on to Gazprombank where she quickly became an advisor to a top manager. Funny how things just work out for you when you are born to a right family.
Ksenia Shoigu and Alexey Stolyarov. Photo: VK
By the time Ksenia and Alexey met, the 30-year-old daughter of the defence minister also proved herself to be a successful entrepreneur who was lucky at every turn: Russian oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov’s venture capital fund, where she is an executive partner, a investment company that secures government grants, where she is a beneficiary, subcontracts from Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko to construct stadiums, bridges, and highways…
At the same time, Ksenia Shoigu was a partner for both senior officials and Russian billionaires from Putin’s inner circle.
She used the Russian public funds and her father’s connections to secure business projects that look very impressive on the CV of such a young person. Many of these projects coincidentally were linked to the Russian Defence Ministry.
This is how Alexey Stolyarov refers to Ksenia Shoigu some months later under a photo showing the couple hugging: “I am so lucky to have you, I love you, MY Ksenia.”
Alexey also resorted to his favourite tropes once again: “my motivation”, “we are a team, we are a family”…
This motivation was so strong that Stolyarov was forced to leave his beloved St. Petersburg and move to elite apartments in downtown Moscow: three of them, to be exact.
In 2021, Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation revealed that Ksenia Shoigu owns a loft and two penthouses worth 500 million rubles (€5.43 million). Ksenia managed to get the loft back in 2016 when she was only 25 years old. At the time, the declared yearly income of her father was a measly 10 million rubles (€108,500).
A recent Yandex.Eda (Russian analogue of Uber Eats) database leak helped investigators to discover that Alexey Stolyarov ordered food deliveries to all three elite apartments.
Alexey Stolyarov (left) during an interview. A screenshot from a video
This successful union was cemented further when the couple welcomed their daughter Milana in the autumn of 2021. And even though Stolyarov and his girlfriend did not officially register the marriage, he quickly became a member of the Shoigu clan. He was even at full liberty to discuss his father-in-law Sergey Shoigu in an interview.
“He is the most positive, the kindest person. I have never met a person like this. Ksenia is also very well brought up. It is all very positive generally.”
“We did not have a barbecue together but I did try a vodka infusion he made. The only negative is that he rarely asks how I am doing. I never join them for fishing trips, they don’t take me, I haven’t won the right yet. Maybe next year… But we did venture into the Russian taiga together, it was incredible.”
Stolyarov did not clarify whether President Putin joined them for the taiga trip. But he did say that his father-in-law always listens to him and offers words of support if need be.
Support independent journalism
Stolyarov and war
When Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, Alexey Stolyarov, 33, did not join the Russian army, despite being a well-built fitness coach. Just like all other sons and sons-in-law of the Russian elites. He continued to do blog posts and online ads, and he even launched an extreme travel show on YouTube. In particular, he recorded a number of episodes about Yakutsk and Magadan and also travelled to Russia’s border with North Korea.
However, the newly anointed son-in-law of the Russian defence minister did not rush to get in touch with reality. He went on holiday with his wife to Dubai, participated in running marathons and half-marathons promoted by her, organised an event branded as “the most people planking simultaneously in the world” and posted photos about it on VK, a Russian social media platform.
“Why are you not in Mariupol?” his followers asked him. The blogger responded with silence. He posted pictures of him behind the wheel of fancy cars, and even on top of them. “Driving to Bakhmut?” more questions followed. Once again, no response.
He was posting videos about “how to relax without alcohol” or “how to build a house underground”. “Just go to the frontlines already,” his followers urged him. Alexey stayed mum.
The couple was ultimately forced to make their Instagram pages private following the public outrage over their Dubai holiday.
Stolyarov’s profile on Instagram, which is officially banned in Russia, also caused a scandal recently. The defence minister’s son-in-law liked an anti-war post published by Yuri Dud, Russian blogger designated as a foreign agent by the authorities. Russia’s patriotic and jingoist Telegram channels quickly pounced on Stolyarov for this show of dissent, forcing him to remove the like.
The blogger even got into a heated argument with one of his critics, branding him a Z-swine. Stolyarov later slammed these reports as “photoshopped”, pleading with his followers to not believe “fakes”, claiming that he never liked anything of the sort and never used such offensive words.
However, it did leave a stain on his reputation. Especially for Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the notorious mercenary Wagner Group. Prigozhin is currently involved in a showdown with Sergey Shoigu and is very happy at the opportunity to trash-talk his son-in-law, using his trademark obscene comments peppered with slurs.
For instance, the Wagner Group head in May 2023 condemned the care-free lifestyle the children of top Russian officials lead, particularly singling out Stolyarov and Ksenia Shoigu:
“Shoigu’s son-in-law walks around, shaking his buns. I mean his buttocks, while his [Shoigu’s] daughter opens Kronstadt forts. Did you earn money for these forts? Do you spend your own money on these forts? Better spend it on f***king ammo.”
“At best, the children of the elites shut their cakeholes, pardon my language, while some of them are even indulging in a public and care-free life. The children of the elites smother themselves with creams and show this on Instagram, YouTube and so on, while ordinary people’s kids return home torn apart in zinc-lined coffins,” Prigozhin added. It’s worth mentioning, however, that he did not specify whether his son was fighting on the front line either.
That is how blogger Alexey Stolyarov rose to prominence in Russia. Not as a blogger but the defence minister’s son-in-law who did not join the Russian army and was targeted by humiliating remarks from his father-in-law’s archnemesis.
Novaya-Europe contacted Stolyarov to request an interview. We particularly asked him to specify if he has any conditions or exemptions precluding him from fighting on the frontlines. The blogger did not respond. He also failed to clarify his stance on the so-called special military operation.
Alexey Stolyarov. Photo: VK
In lieu of an afterword
“I know that Ksenia is the person that I want to share my whole life with!”, “Ksenia is my main support in everything! I love her!”. This is what Alexey still writes today. This is his longest relationship to date: the power couple has been together for almost three years.
Alexey Stolyarov’s career is still flying high: he hosts musical award ceremonies and marathons and has become a permanent fixture on TV shows.
He even travels to Luhansk, a Ukrainian city occupied by Russia, as part of the Kremlin’s patriotic movement. Shoigu’s son-in-law actively pumps out videos from Luhansk, saying that the city “has gotten so much better” after it was occupied by Russia to become the capital of the so-called Luhansk people’s republic. Stolyarov walks around, surveying locals (selectively chosen, it seems like) and recording their answers. They all say that “a lot was renovated” and “it’s so much better now than it was”.
However, Stolyarov is now unable to travel with his partner to the US, a vacation spot he loved so much with his previous girlfriends. The Russian defence minister’s daughter was slapped with sanctions by Washington after the full-scale invasion began as a person who
“made tens of millions of dollars on state construction projects and has business interests directly tied to the Ministry of Defence”.
In the autumn of 2022, Ksenia ended up on Japan’s sanction list, while Ukraine blacklisted her this spring as a daughter of Sergey Shoigu who, in turn, “is directly responsible for policies that undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence”.
“I am just a regular guy! I have always dreamt that I will make it. Today, I will fall asleep in one of Switzerland’s best hotels with this view,” the blogger posted shortly before meeting his dream woman.
Ultimately, “just a regular guy” has managed to build a successful career and also reach the heights he never thought of — become the son-in-law of a minister.
Here are the three of them — Stolyarov, Ksenia, and her father Sergey Shoigu (in a denim jacket with Putin Team patch and white trainers). All smiles, celebrating the end of 2021. Ksenia Shoigu shared the picture on her Instagram page before it became private and wrote, “May all our dreams come true!”.
Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine began less than two months after this.
Time will tell if they will recreate this picture when the war is over.
Join us in rebuilding Novaya Gazeta Europe
The Russian government has banned independent media. We were forced to leave our country in order to keep doing our job, telling our readers about what is going on Russia, Ukraine and Europe.
We will continue fighting against warfare and dictatorship. We believe that freedom of speech is the most efficient antidote against tyranny. Support us financially to help us fight for peace and freedom.