On October 26, the Russian language information space was shaken by shocking news disseminated by the Telegram channel “General SVR”, which is associated to the Russian intelligence services. This announced that the leader from the Kremlin died at his residence in Valdai at 8:42pm, Moscow time. Doctors stopped resuscitation and pronounced death,” “General SVR” noted, publishing a post about Putin’s death at 9:41pm the same day. The same source said the doctors were blocked in the room with Putin’s corpse. They were being held by members of the presidential security service on the personal orders of Dmitry Kochnev who was in touch and received instructions from the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev. Security for the President’s double has been beefed up.
Unverified and officially denied reports
The same channel further commented on the created station, saying that ‘a coup’ is being staged in Russian by the group of the Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev. This accusation is based on Patrushev’s alleged intention to use a body double of Putin as President of Russia.
Several hours later, famous Russian historian and political scientist Valery Solovey formulated a forecast for the developments in Russia in the nearest future, saying that “they will try to hide Putin’s death. They already hide it. In authoritarian regimes, this is possible... Over the past two-three months, he was successfully substituted by a body double, the ‘replica’ in the jargon of the Federal Security Service. The two doubles could be used for a short period of time to cover the transition to a post-Putin future ... The period is of approximately two-three months,” concluded the doctor of history Solovey, who uses also the name Nightingale for his publications on Telegram.
“General SVR”, as well as Solovey, long ago developed a conspiracy theory about the body doubles of Putin and the fatal illness of the President of the Russian Federation. Such information was revealed by official sources from the Kremlin. Most recently, on October 24, the spokesman for the President of Russia Peskov, commented on “General SVR”’s assertion that Putin suffered a cardiac arrest and described the reports about Putin’s health as another hoax, as the news agency RIA Novosti reported. “Everything is fine with him. This is absolutely another information canard,” stated Peskov. He also denied the fact that Putin has double bodies.
Part of conspiracy theory?
For its part, the Western publication Politico noted that reports about President Putin’s health, sourced to “General SVR”, were published by a number of British media outlets, especially the papers Daily Mirror and Daily Express, but the publication perceived the Telegram channel’s statements about Putin’s state of health as part of a conspiracy theory. Internet users were also skeptical about the reports concerning Putin’s death. For example, Russian journalist who received Ukrainian citizenship Alexander Nevzorov, reacting to the message about the death of the head of the Kremlin, that “there are two pieces of news: good and bad.” “The good news is: Putin died. The bad: it’s not certain,” Nevzorov wrote.
The state of health of Putin, 71, who has been in power in the Russian Federation since 2000, has been repeatedly raised by the media. In September 2020, Putin’s classmate, former KGB officer of the USSR, Yuri Shvets, said that the chief from the Kremlin was ill and “had problems that needed chemotherapy”. In November the same year, the British tabloid The Sun, quoting its sources, reported that owing to his disease, Putin could leave the post of President of Russia. The Kremlin treated this information as “full nonsense” and assured that Putin was in excellent health.
In April 2022, the Russian publication Proekt published an investigation on Putin’s health, saying that the Russian Presidents’ medical team included a surgeon oncologist. On May 12 this year, New Lines Magazine, quoting an unnamed businessman close to the Kremlin, said that Putin suffered from blood cancer. On May 19, American film director Oliver Stone, who was close to Putin, said the President of Russia overcame cancer. On June 2, the American journal Newsweek, quoting a classified U.S. report, said that Putin underwent treatment for advanced cancer in April.
Or indirect evidence?
In August, the Ukrainian intelligence services reported that the circle close to Putin was in a panic owing to the state of health of this and the decisions he could take while in a precarious state of health.
As the British tabloid The Sun reported, Japanese experts in facial recognition and voice identification confirmed the increasingly popular theory that Vladimir Putin has “doubles” who take the place of the Russians President at public events. Experts of the Japanese Audio Communications Institute, who usually cooperate with the police in looking for and identifying offenders, after analyzing Putin’s various speeches using artificial intelligence technologies, came to the conclusion that the Russian president has at least one “double”, and most likely a second one.
Besieged by rumors about Putin’s body doubles, the Kremlin at least twice in 2023 had to publicly deny these, every time naming them “press inventions”. ”There are no doubles,” said presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov on October 24, noting that “this evokes nothing but a smile” at the Kremlin. Back in April, Peskov said that Putin didn’t use body doubles and never stayed in a bunker, didn’t have health issues, was super active and one could only envy his energy.
Rumors about the state of health and even death of Putin are indirectly supported by the sensational initiative that was recently launched by the President of Belarus Lukashenko, who unexpectedly asked for peace negotiations with Ukraine. According to the Belarusian leader, Russia and Ukraine are locked in a stalemate on the frontlines of their war and the two sides need to sit down and negotiate an end to the conflict. “There are enough problems on both sides and in general the situation is now seriously stalemate: no one can do anything and substantively strengthen or advance their position. We need to sit down at the negotiating table and come to an agreement,” Lukashenko, who is considered a master in adjusting to the changing conjuncture, said in a video posted on the website of the Belarusian state news agency BelTA.
What do reports/rumors signal?
Currently, there is no confirmation of the rumors about Putin’s death. The main source of the sensational information was the Telegram channel “General SVR”, which is associated to particular clans from the Russian intelligence services and which objectively creates a state of uncertainty in the Russian information and political space. The adventurist war started by the regime of Putin against Ukraine has devastating effects on the Russian state and society, which are seriously affected by the absence of functional democratic institutions and traditions. This state of affairs reveals the profoundness of the political and institutional crisis experienced by the current regime in Moscow, which turns into a clear prediction of the approaching clashes between clans in the fight for supremacy at the Kremlin.
Against such a background, it is not so important if Putin is dead or alive as his power is already disputed by the circulation of rumors about his death and the possible coming to power of Putin’s body double. The fact that public opinion accepts as real the scenario about Putin’s death that is being hidden by his company to make his replacement as leader by a body double possible irremediably discredits the current regime at the Kremlin, underlining the quality of outcast of this in international community.
The current adventure about the alleged death of the Russian leader shows with big probability that the last sand grains are being consumed in the life clepsydra of Putin’s regime and Russia is close to a cruel war for power of the clans from the Kremlin. It would be good for the Republic of Moldova to use to the maximum this period of political unrest in Moscow to solve the objective of definitive detachment from the Russian world and guaranteeing of its security, which can be achieved the easiest through the ideal of national unity.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.