Kremlin ‘deliberately spread rumour that Putin had died to test how popular he is among Russians’
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The Kremlin spread a rumour that Putin had died to test how popular he is among Russians, Ukraine has claimed.

Andrii Yusov, a Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman, said that a report last week by a Russian Telegram channel on the alleged death of the Russian leader was a strategy used by Moscow with the aim of helping it to gain a firmer grip on domestic control.

‘In this way, the empire, which is built on the work of the secret services, learns how to continue to rule,’ Yusov said.

Telegram channel General SVR reported last Friday that the Russian President had died and that he was using body doubles to represent him in public. Body double claims have been made by various people since the start of the invasion.

The channel, which regularly reports that Putin has died, claimed that his body was resting in a freezer after his alleged death.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council, the Government and the leadership of law enforcement agencies at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, on October 30, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council, the Government and the leadership of law enforcement agencies at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, on October 30, 2023

Observers have pointed to the Kremlin strongman's changing appearance over the years as possible evidence that he uses someone else to stand in for him on engagements he either does not want to make or considers too dangerous. The speculation ran rife in June when he took selfies with young girls in Derbent

Observers have pointed to the Kremlin strongman’s changing appearance over the years as possible evidence that he uses someone else to stand in for him on engagements he either does not want to make or considers too dangerous. The speculation ran rife in June when he took selfies with young girls in Derbent

However, the claim about his death still gained worldwide media coverage, forcing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to deny it.

Yusov believes this was all part of a strategy used by Moscow to gauge the reaction among Russians.

‘The basic purpose of fake news is to look at how society reacts in terms of numbers and dynamics,’ he said.

‘[The purpose is] to look at the reactions of individuals, the elite and the media.’

There has been no authoritative analysis to tie the Kremlin to the channel.

General SVR has also covered several alleged humiliations suffered by the Russian President, including incidents such as Putin falling down the stairs and soiling himself.

The Telegram channel has distanced itself from the Kremlin and claims to be authored by a former officer in Moscow’s intelligence service. 

‘Everything is fine with him, this is absolutely another fake [rumour],’ Peskov insisted on October 24 when asked about a report that Putin had suffered a serious health episode days before. 

Peskov laughed in response to a further question about body doubles, and denied that Putin had any. 

‘I can tell you there are no doubles when it comes to work and so on,’ Peskov said. 

He added: ‘These [kinds of stories] belong to the category of fake news, discussed with enviable tenacity by a number of media outlets. This brings nothing but a smile [in the Kremlin].’

It was the second time this year Peskov has been forced to issue a denial about a swirl of reports on the use of doppelgängers, often seen as linked to Putin’s supposedly serious health problems. 

Putin listens to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 24, 2023

Putin listens to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 24, 2023

A recent picture of Putin with Chechen republic head Ramzan Kadyrov showed the Russian President appearing bloated with mottled skin

A recent picture of Putin with Chechen republic head Ramzan Kadyrov showed the Russian President appearing bloated with mottled skin

Peskov stressed that the President – who has plunged Russia and Ukraine into a debilitating war – was fit and well. The rumours amounted to an ‘absurd hoax’, he said.

Putin, a judo enthusiast who has long cultivated an ‘action man’ image, turned 71 on October 7 and rumours of his ill health have been swirling for years. 

In a 2020 interview, Putin denied long-standing rumours that he uses body doubles, although he said he had been offered the chance to use one in the past for security reasons.

But observers have pointed to the Kremlin strongman’s changing appearance over the years as possible evidence that he uses someone else to stand in for him on engagements he either does not want to make or considers too dangerous.

The speculation ran rife in June when Putin made a surprise visit to the city of Derbent in southern Russia just days after the failed Wagner rebellion, with footage showing how the despot dived into a night-time crowd like a Hollywood actor on a red carpet.

Seemingly imbued with fresh energy after averting a small-scale civil war the week earlier, the normally stoic and isolated Putin was uncharacteristically personable, shaking hands and planting kisses on the head of a young teenage girl who gushed over him and pleaded with her mother to snap a photo of her with the President.

In another bizarre moment he shook hands with – and appeared to adjust something on the uniform of – an officer carrying what may have been his nuclear briefcase.

He has not greeted his security apparatchiks in such a way previously.

The scene was markedly different to the extreme measures of the last few years that have enforced strict quarantines for anyone outside of Putin’s close circle before meeting him.

His transformative behaviour – described as ‘astounding’ by the Kremlin – has led many, including senior Russian figures, to fuel speculation that the Putin greeting adoring fans in Dagestan was in fact a body double.

Putin listens to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 24, 2023

Putin listens to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 24, 2023

The Derbent outing was seen as a publicity stunt by critics. Putin has not been seen greeting crowds in such a way since before the pandemic

The Derbent outing was seen as a publicity stunt by critics. Putin has not been seen greeting crowds in such a way since before the pandemic

Russian political analyst Dr Valery Solovey said last month: ‘The fact is that the current President Vladimir Putin is living out the last days of his earthly life.’

Solovey is former professor at Moscow’s prestigious Institute of International Relations [MGIMO], a training academy for spies and diplomats.

The head of Ukrainian military intelligence Lt-Gen Kyrylo Budanov has alleged the real Putin has not been seen since June 2022.

‘The one, who everyone used to know, was last seen around 26 June 2022,’ he said in September.

A recent Japanese TV report used AI to analyse Putin’s face, walk and voice in multiple appearances, and concluded that he does use one and perhaps two body doubles.

Putin has made trips to Kyrgyzstan and China, and was unusually active in travelling inside Russia.

A couple of weeks ago, he visited Perm, and held talks with his war commander General Valery Gerasimov in Rostov-on-Don after making a ‘detour’ to visit the military headquarters.

The channel says all these are undertaken by body doubles who underwent plastic surgery and years of training by Russian secret services to perform as Putin stand-ins.

In April, Peskov admitted that reports were rife about Putin’s doppelgängers but claimed the warmonger was ‘mega-active’.

‘Perhaps you had heard that Putin has multiple doubles, who work instead of him while he is sitting inside a bunker,’ he said. ‘This is yet more lies. This is one more lie.

‘You see our President. He is just as he used to be – mega-active.’

Putin has admitted that his aides previously asked him if he wanted to use body doubles, a routine procedure for former Kremlin leaders Stalin and Brezhnev. The Russian President said he had rejected the scheme.



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