Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila have announced they are divorcing after nearly 30 years of marriage.

The Putins made the statement on state television after attending a ballet performance at the Kremlin.

"It was our joint decision," Mr Putin said.

Mrs Putin was rarely seen in public during her husband's long tenure at the top of Russian politics and implied that she did not like to travel with him on his frequent trips.

"I don't like publicity and flying is difficult for me," she said.

The Putins married on 28 July 1983 and have two daughters, Maria and Yekaterina.

"We practically never saw each other. To each his own life," Mr Putin said.

Mrs Putin said: "We will eternally be very close people. I'm thankful ... that he supports me."

There have been no indications of how the move would be perceived by the public.

Divorce is common in Russia, and nearly 700,000 couples dissolved their marriages in 2009, according to UNICEF.

Russian leaders, unlike their counterparts in the West, generally keep their personal lives well out of public view.

Mikhail Gorbachev's wife Raisa raised many Russians' hackles by her visibility, flair for fashionable dress and forthright comments.

But Mr Putin also has made a point of supporting traditional social values and appearing at holiday masses of the Orthodox Church.

The church permits divorce under some circumstances. It is not clear if the Putins sought pastoral advice or permission before the split.