The Kremlin has dismissed fresh speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ill and called rumours that he uses a body double an “absurd hoax”.
The comments from Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov came after the General SVR Telegram channel, which regularly alleges Mr Putin is terminally ill with cancer, claimed he suffered “cardiac arrest” on Sunday evening.
“Everything is fine with him, this is absolutely another fake [story],” Mr Peskov said when asked about the reports during his regular media briefing on Tuesday morning.
He then called claims that the Russian leader has a body double an “absurd hoax”.
Speculation over a Putin body double goes back years.
The 71-year-old admitted in 2020 that he had in fact been offered the chance to use a body double for his protection in the past, but said he rejected the offer.
Sky News’ Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay answered a reader’s question on this subject in our War in Ukraine blog recently.
The question was: “Is there any truth to rumours Putin has a body double? He seemed to get back across Russia very quickly after meeting Kim for a man who does not fly is all I’m saying…”
Magnay wrote in response…
“Autocrats having body doubles is a popular conspiracy theory and I have no doubt well enough substantiated in some instances. But really, beyond a few weird photos we have no clear evidence that Putin uses body doubles.
“The Kremlin denies it as obviously it would, but the speculation around certain images or moments tends to stem from Ukrainian sources or the tabloid press and those are never that reliable vis-a-vis Russia.
“Vladivostok to Moscow is a little over eight hours if you’re flying commercial, which Putin doesn’t. He has his own presidential jet, the Ilyushin Il-96, which flew him to Vladivostok on 11 September, meeting with Kim Jong Un at the Vostochny Cosmodrome on the 13th and back in Moscow for a security council meeting on the 14th. And if you have to watch as many of the Kremlin live telegram feeds of Putin at these various events as I do, they look – and sound – like him.
“People question whether he would have risked wading into crowds and hugging small children in places like Dagestan having spent much of the COVID era in quarantine and at the other end of long tables.
“Putin is remarkably adaptable and needs to feel loved by his people. After Prigozhin’s coup, that was the strategy the Kremlin adopted, to put Putin front and centre again, and it was a role he threw himself into.
“Of course, the Ukrainians and the likes of Alexey Navalny like to paint him as a coward hiding away in his bunker but the reality is, he’s probably got a bit more spine than they give him credit for.”
The Kremlin released new photos of Mr Putin on Tuesday after he met deputy prime minister and minister of industry and trade Denis Manturov at the Kremlin.