Conspiracy theorists are promoting a theory that Russian President Vladimir Putin died on Thursday and the Kremlin has been using a body double since, prompting swift condemnation from Putin’s spokesperson.
Dmitry Peskov reportedly called such claims “absurd” and untrue. Peskov earlier last week also refuted rumors that Putin had suffered a cardiac arrest, stating then that “there are no doubles” and “everything is fine” with the Russian leader.
Rumors and conspiracies surrounding Putin’s health have circulated for months, but the latest bout—that he is actually dead—can largely be traced back to two sources that promoted the theory.
The first is a Telegram post by the Russian gossip channel General SVR that stated Putin had passed away at his residence in Valdai at “20.42 p.m Moscow time” on Thursday, sparking “a coup d’état in Russia!”
“Now the doctors are blocked in the room with Putin’s corpse, they are being held by employees of the presidential security service on the personal order of Dmitry Kochnev, who is in touch and receives instructions from the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Nikolai Patrushev,” the post added.
General SVR went on to claim that security for Putin’s body double had been strengthened and that attempts to pass the supposed double off as Putin amounted to a coup d’état.
Russian political analyst Valery Solovey pushed the same report in an interview earlier this week, claiming that Putin’s body “is in the refrigerator compartment of his residence in Valdai.”
Solovey previously predicted that Putin would die by the end of fall and also pushed body double claims.
“He killed [P]utin so many times now, he really needs to see a psychiatrist,” joked one X user about the interview.
Similar conspiracies about his death have been floated before.
Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in January questioned if Putin was still alive.
“I don’t quite understand who to talk to and about what. I’m not sure that Russia’s president, who sometimes appears against the chroma key is really him,” Zelenskyy said about the possibility of peace talks, according to the Kyiv Independent.
While reports of Putin’s death are limited to gossip channels and rumors not backed up with independent reports, there are more credible reports that Putin’s health has deteriorated (the Kremlin denies this).
U.S. intelligence officials told Newsweek that in April 2022, Putin underwent treatment for advanced cancer. The New York Post separately reported on a Russian intelligence source that alleged Putin had also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.