The Kremlin laughs off rumors that President Putin uses body doubles

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

Vyacheslav Oseledko Afp | Getty Images

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

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

“Everything is fine with him, this is completely another fake,” Peskov said, according to a Reuters translation, declining a follow-up question about whether Putin uses body doubles.

“This belongs to the category of nonsensical information hoaxes that a whole range of media outlets discuss with enviable persistence. This causes nothing but a smile,” added Peskov.

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

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

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

“I refused to have doubles. It was during the most difficult moment of the fight against terrorism,” Putin said, without elaborating.

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It is not the first time the Kremlin has pushed back against such rumours, which usually abound when Putin is depicted appearing slightly different, such as having a different complexion or not wearing a watch, for example.

In April, Putin’s spokesman Peskov again dismissed the dual claims about the body, saying, “You’ve probably heard that [Putin] he has too many doubles working for him while he sits in a bunker.”

Calling it “another lie,” Peskov said, in comments published by TASSthat “in fact, he always was 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 he was as healthy as he is,” Peskov said.

“Of course, it’s not sitting in any warehouse. This is also a lie,” added Peskov.

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

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