Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint press statement with his Kyrgyz counterpart after talks in Bishkek on Oct. 12, 2023.

Vyacheslav Oseledko | Afp | Getty Images

There has been long-standing speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin uses body doubles to stand in for him at public engagements for health or security reasons, but the Kremlin ridiculed the rumors Tuesday.

Asked by reporters to comment on an unsourced report on a Russian Telegram channel claiming Putin had suffered a serious health episode on Sunday — a report picked up by some Western media outlets nonetheless — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov laughed.

“Everything is fine with him, this is absolutely another fake,” Peskov said, according to a Reuters translation, denying a further question on whether Putin uses any body doubles.

“This belongs to the category of absurd information hoaxes that a whole series of media discuss with enviable tenacity. This evokes nothing but a smile,” Peskov added.

Putin has built much of his leadership on an image of him as an active, macho “tough guy,” and has even been photographed topless when riding a horse during fishing and hunting trips.

Aged 71, Putin is widely expected to run for the presidency again in 2024 following changes to Russia’s constitution allowing him to do so, although he has not confirmed this.

Putin himself has denied using body doubles but said in a 2020 interview with Russia’s TASS news agency that he had been offered the opportunity to use one for security reasons, during Russia’s second war against Chechnya in the early 2000s, but had not done so.

“I refused to have doubles. It was during the most difficult time of the fight against terrorism,” Putin said, without giving further details.

It’s not the first time the Kremlin has rebuffed such rumors, which typically abound when Putin is pictured appearing slightly different, such as having a different skin complexion or not wearing a watch, for example.

In April, Putin’s spokesman Peskov again rejected the body double claims, saying, “you have probably heard that he [Putin] has very many doubles who work instead of him while he sits in a bunker.”

Calling it “yet another lie,” Peskov said, in comments published by TASS, that “as a matter of fact, he has always been and is mega-active. We can hardly keep up with him – those who work with him. His energy is enviable and one can only wish to be as healthy as he is,” Peskov said.

“Of course, he doesn’t sit in any bunkers. This is also a lie,” Peskov added.

The president, a former Judo champion, is said to be very wary of his health, with extremely strict measures introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic to limit his exposure to the infectious disease.

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