The Kremlin was forced to deny growing rumours that President Vladimir Putin suffered a cardiac arrest just days ago, and laughed off claims he uses body doubles to cover for him in public appearances.
‘Everything is fine with him, this is absolutely another fake [rumour],’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted today when asked about a report that Putin had suffered a serious health episode on Sunday evening.
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 is 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 supposedly serious Putin health problems.
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday
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 he took selfies with young girls in Derbent
A recent picture of Putin with Chechen republic head Ramzan Kadyrov showed the Russian president appearing bloated with mottled skin
Peskov stressed 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.
Most recently, General SVR Telegram channel, which regularly alleges Putin is terminally ill with cancer, alleged he suffered ‘cardiac arrest’ on Sunday evening.
The channel said all recent appearances by the Russian dictator, including foreign visits, have been by a body double or doubles.
It claimed that doctors resuscitated Putin and he was taken to a special intensive care facility at his official residence.
‘Doctors performed resuscitation, having previously determined that the president was in cardiac arrest,’ reported the channel. ‘Help was provided on time, the heart was started and Putin regained consciousness.’
The channel is supposedly run by a former Kremlin lieutenant-general, known by the alias Viktor Mikhailovich. It claims Putin’s top apparatchiks and security henchmen control the activities of the doppelgängers.
In a 2020 interview, Putin denied longstanding 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 shakes hands with – and appears to adjust something on the uniform of – an officer carrying what may be 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 which have enforced strict quarantines for anyone outside of Putin’s close circle before meeting with 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.
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday
Putin has not been seen greeting crowds in such a way since before the pandemic
It comes as rumours continue to swirl about Putin’s poor health.
Russian political analyst Dr Valery Solovey said last week: ‘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.
He has promised more claims about Putin’s health on Thursday.
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 last month.
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.
Last week 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 by body doubles who underwent plastic surgery and years of training by Russian secret services to perform as Putin stand-ins.
This week he has been hold meetings with officials in Moscow. Today he was shown meeting deputy premier Denis Manturov, who is also trade and industry minister.
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, which was routine for former Kremlin leaders Stalin and Brezhnev. Putin said he rejected the scheme.