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Putin died? Who is behind fake, and why his death won't end Russia-Ukraine war

Putin died? Who is behind fake, and why his death won't end Russia-Ukraine war Russian dictator Vladimir Putin (Getty Images)

Telegram channels erupted with the "news" of Vladimir Putin's supposed death. The fake news was so far-fetched that the Kremlin didn't comment on it at all, and the Russian dictator appeared alive at a Security Council meeting today.

Read below about conspiracy theories, motivations behind this rumor, and whether Ukraine can hope for a swift victory in a war after Putin's real death.

To prepare the article, the following sources were used: Russian anonymous Telegram channel, statements from Russian President spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, representatives of Western intelligence agencies, the head of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence Kyrylo Budanov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov in interview with Focus, an investigation by the Russian media Project, as well as exclusive comments from experts Oleksandr Kovalenko and Vladyslav Seleznov.

Yesterday died, today chaired the Security Council

The message about Putin's supposed death appeared on an anonymous Telegram channel called General SVR. There is information that leaks from the Kremlin's corridors are made by a former high-ranking officer of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, but it has not been confirmed. Several Ukrainian public pages reposted yesterday's news, albeit with skeptical comments.

The essence is that Vladimir Putin supposedly died on October 26 at his Valdai residence, and at 8.42 p.m., doctors stopped resuscitation and declared him dead. Today, the channel provided some additional details. His condition deteriorated sharply in the evening, and additional teams of doctors were called in, who, within 15 minutes, confirmed his death. Allegedly, his personal security sealed them off on the instructions of the Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev. As of this morning, they were still holding them, and they placed the "presidential body in a freezer."

According to General SVR, one of Putin's body doubles replaced him at most recent public appearances. Currently, Russian elites have reportedly almost reached an agreement to create a coalition led by Patrushev to keep the Putin regime and use the double as the president.

Putin died? Who is behind fake, and why his death won't end Russia-Ukraine war

Photo: Vladimir Putin supposedly was at death's door since October 22 (Getty Images)

According to this source, doctors had been fighting for Putin's life since October 22 when his heart allegedly stopped. However, doctors managed to resuscitate the dictator, brought him back to consciousness, and placed him in a specially equipped room in the intensive care unit.

"No, he's fine. It's just another fake. Absolutely," said Dmitry Peskov, the presidential press secretary, commenting on the information about supposed death at that time.

There was no Kremlin reaction to the new episodes at Valdai. Meanwhile, after midday on October 27, the press service released a video of Putin's meeting with permanent members of the Security Council. The meeting's topic was the issue of the weapons circulation in Russia.

At the meeting, Putin revealed that during the second year of full-scale war, "weapons from the territory of Ukraine are illegally entering Russia." He demanded increased control and the strengthening of the legal framework.

Who is promoting the conspiracy theory

The Telegram channel General SVR was previously popularized by Valery Solovei, a native of Shchastia in the Luhansk region and a Russian political scientist who served as the head of the public relations department at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) in 2007-2019. He often referred to the General SVR channel in his speeches, and many consider him the gray cardinal of the channel.

Believing in the "insides" of Putin's critical condition, his death, and preparing for a power transition is not advisable, as a military and political analyst for Information Resistance Group, Oleksandr Kovalenko, told RBC-Ukraine.

"I don't trust this channel. I know who is associated with it - it's Professor Solovey, who is more of a conspiracy theorist amateur than a professor. I believe he only spreads conspiracy theories. Out of all the messages he posts, only 10% have something connected to reality. Everything else is his personal fantasies. I don't believe this channel at all," he noted.

Vladyslav Seleznov, a former Chief of the Press Service of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, subscribes to General SVR and states that the channel was recommended to him by a respected person within the security services.

"Why are they starting to spread the news of Putin's death now? It's unknown. Do I want to believe? Of course, but there have been no independent confirmations. Although, knowing how the Federal Security Service and the Federal Protective Service of the Russian Federation function, if this were to happen, we wouldn't know right away. Just remember the case of the politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who was kept in an artificial coma for a month," he explained.

The expert is not sure that General SVR is a Russian information product and does not rule out that the PSYOP story comes from another country interested in provoking turmoil in Russia.

Putin died? Who is behind fake, and why his death won't end Russia-Ukraine warPhoto: Rumors about Vladimir Putin's death could be beneficial to various parties (Getty Images)

Kovalenko notes that the world would likely learn about Putin's death roughly in the same way as it did about the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953.

"If Putin dies while still in power, there will initially be an information vacuum. Then suddenly everyone will find out that the leader has passed away, and they will arrange a grandiose funeral and share power. This will be a relatively light situation, similar to what happened with Stalin," he added.

According to the official version, Stalin was found paralyzed on March 1, 1953, at his country house after a hemorrhagic stroke. The next day, an official meeting of the Presidium of the CPSU Central Committee took place in his office, attended by discredited members who had been formally removed from the organization, signaling upcoming changes. On the morning of March 4, the first news about Stalin's illness appeared in newspapers, even though by that time, proposals for a new top leadership of the USSR were already prepared. March 5 is considered the date of his death, which was announced on the radio the next morning.

What is Putin's condition, and are there any body doubles

Expectations of Putin's imminent death have long been fueled by information from Russian independent media, as well as Western and Ukrainian intelligence statements about an incurable illness. These reports were backed by Putin's recent behavior, including unclear speech, frequent coughing, and unsteady posture while meeting officials in the Kremlin. His meetings with world leaders and subordinates gathered around a long table also triggered a wave of memes.

In April 2022, Projekt's investigation claimed that Putin was constantly consulting with surgeons and oncologists (thyroid experts), accompanied everywhere by a team of medical experts, and seeking unconventional medical treatments, including baths with deer antler extract. When asked whether the president had cancer, Dmitry Peskov responded that it was "fiction and falsehood."

The American media Newsweek, citing sources in U.S. intelligence, wrote that Putin had undergone treatment for advanced-stage cancer, and many in Washington supposedly felt that his end was near. In July, CIA Director William Burns dispelled these rumors.

"As far as we can judge, he is probably very healthy," he said, though specifying that it was an unofficial opinion.

Former head of Russia desk at MI6 Christopher Steele also mentioned serious health problems but refrained from asserting it was an incurable fatal disease. At the end of 2022, Danish intelligence claimed he had chronic pain from multiple falls and accidents, but they speculated that at the time of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russian president was being treated for cancer, and possibly some side effects affected his decision-making.

Vadym Skybitskyi, a representative of Ukraine's intelligence, called Putin morally and physically sick, mentioning schizophrenia. Chief of Ukrainian Intelligence Kyrylo Budanov stated in January 2023 that the dictator was seriously ill and had been for a long time, likely with cancer.

"We simply know this from sources," he said in an interview with ABC News.

Putin died? Who is behind fake, and why his death won't end Russia-Ukraine war

Photo: Vladimir Putin has been showing signs of poor health lately, but his condition is unlikely to be critical (Getty Images)

In another interview with The Washington Post, he confirmed that Putin was terminally ill with cancer, and had several body doubles. Whether the real president of Russia appeared in public remained unclear.

"In 2021, there was a statement, I believe it was mine, that Putin is very ill with cancer. Two years have passed since then, and now everyone is starting to say that something is wrong with him. Time will tell who was right," he said in May 2023.

Expert Oleksandr Kovalenko believes that rumors about the illness of the Russian president are greatly exaggerated. While Putin is certainly not young at 71 years old and may have a range of health issues because of natural aging, Kovalenko doubts that any of them are incurable.

"I heard stories about his sarcoma as far back as 2014. So what? How is his sarcoma doing? Yes, he's an old man, he has problems, and it's true that he has a rather advanced form of mental illness. But I disagree that Putin will die in two weeks, a month, or six months," he stated.

He also disagrees with reports of Putin having body doubles, despite such information being spread by officials in Ukraine.

"There are no body doubles, and it has been proven more than once. It was proven in 2015 when the Russian president disappeared for 11 days, causing concern. However, they didn't release any body double to calm things down. From 2015 to 2016, Putin did not leave Russia, except for one visit to Belarus. Could they not have used a body double? The same goes for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when he supposedly stayed in a bunker in Novo-Ogaryovo (a residence near Moscow). Putin is afraid of body doubles; he's afraid he could be replaced by a double," Kovalenko explained.

Vladislav Seleznov notes that Putin is an old intelligence officer and is deeply influenced by Stalin's political and life path.

"He always had body doubles, so I wouldn't rule out the possibility of making a whole 'team of replacements' for Putin," he added.

What happens if Putin dies?

The Independent, a British media, lists five potential successors in response to rumors about Putin's heart-stopping, noting that members of his family are not vying for his replacement.

In the case of Putin's death or sudden resignation, the Federation Council would have 14 days to announce early presidential elections. During this interim period, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin would serve as the acting president, but his chances of permanent appointment are almost zero as he is not popular among the elites.

Deputy Head of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev has previously served as president in 2008-2012. He has gained a reputation as anti-Ukrainian and constantly threatens with nuclear weapons, but it is believed that his subordinate role has diminished his ability to consolidate power. Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Sergey Kiriyenko is a member of Putin's inner circle but is best suited for a behind-the-scenes role.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was once considered the most popular figure in Russia after the president, but his ratings have declined in the face of setbacks in Ukraine. Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev was the chief strategist behind the invasion of Ukraine, and Putin listens to him, making him one of the favorites to succeed him.

Putin died? Who is behind fake, and why his death won't end Russia-Ukraine warPhoto: Vladimir Putin's death will not mean a quick end to the Russia-Ukraine war (Getty Images)

Oleksandr Kovalenko notes that there is no clear obvious successor.

"Putin intentionally attracted many unremarkable, second-rate, and gray personalities to his circle so that they would appear even more worthless against his backdrop. For example, Shoigu. He was once called "number 2", but he cannot even speak clearly. Patrushev and Bortnikov (Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB) are possible candidates, but they may compete against each other for power," he explained to RBC-Ukraine.

Kovalenko believes that, in any case, there will be a period of internal confrontation after Putin's death, which is unlikely to immediately affect the front lines, and there should be no hope for a swift end to the war, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, the return of Crimea, etc.

"Almost the entire Russian society is brainwashed, waiting for the 'denazification of Ukraine' for the second year, and it's not happening. Under what pretext would they withdraw the troops? Like they achieved their goals? No, they will have to leave the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Crimea because we won't stop until we see them retreating. And they understand that very well," the expert believes.

With a new government in place, intensive battles will continue for some time, but there is a possibility that they will attempt to negotiate agreements.

"Putin has put them all in a tight spot, and they want to get out of it. They don't need an endless war; they will seek contact and try to agree on some actions. And during this period, we must be as tough as possible - only within the boundaries of 1991. After they come to terms, we can talk about partial sanctions relief and other aspects," he added.

Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov notes that the question of when the Lord will take Putin is just a matter of time, but that won't be the end of it, as all of Russia is filled with inhumanity.

"As for Ukraine, they hate us just as much and believe that we should disappear from the world map. We need to understand that. And if one thinks that something will change after Putin's death, it's not true. It will take years to change. First and foremost, they need to start loving people," he said in an interview with Focus.

Vladyslav Seleznov also warns Ukrainians not to have high hopes for Putin's death in the future. He says that the decision to invade Ukraine was not made by Putin personally, and at that Security Council meeting in February 2022, he tied up all those close to him. Among them, many will push the agenda of war to a victorious end.