The Kremlin has vehemently denied the 'lies' that Vladimir Putin, 71, died at his luxurious Valdia forest palace amid claims that a coup was underway in Moscow. The denial follows a report of Putin's death that was published by the Telegram channel General SVR, which has consistently claimed that the Russian leader was suffering from cancer and was terminally ill.
The channel also claimed that a "coup" was taking place in Russia, with Putin's entourage attempting to present his body double as the authentic president. However, on Thursday night, Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told the state media outlet RIA Novosti that the report was a baseless and "absurd information canard."
Putin Still Alive
Earlier this week, Peskov had vehemently refuted claims that Putin suffered a heart attack over the weekend and also dismissed reports that the Russian president had deputed a doppelganger, asserting that such claims were false.
One theory circulating is that the Telegram channel may be financially supported by figures who were formerly in Putin's inner circle but have now lost influence. This false report could be seen as a sign of a significant power struggle within Russia, especially as the country is facing challenges in its conflict in Ukraine.
There are also suggestions that elements of the GRU, the military intelligence agency, might be linked to these developments.
The Telegram post read: "Attention! There is currently an attempted coup in Russia!
"Russian President Vladimir Putin died this evening at his residence in Valdai. At 20.42 Moscow time, doctors stopped resuscitation and pronounced death.
"Now the doctors are blocked in the room with Putin's corpse, they are being held by members of the presidential security service on the personal orders of Dmitry Kochnev [director of the Federal Guard Service], who is in touch and receives instructions from the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev.
"Security for the president's double has been beefed up. Active negotiations are underway.
"Any attempt to pass off a double as the president after Putin's death is a coup."
The Telegram channel has claimed that Nikolai Patrushev, 72, is a leading contender to take over as president. Nikolai Patrushev, 72, is the secretary of Russia's influential Security Council and is also one of Putin's principal intelligence advisors.
However, there are suggestions that he might be eyeing power for his son, Dmitry Patrushev, who currently holds the position of agriculture minister at the age of 46.
Kremlin Refutes Claims
For several months, the channel has been claiming that Putin was unwell and has been substituted by actors trained by security services, who allegedly underwent plastic surgery to resemble the Russian leader.
Valery Solovey, a former professor at Moscow's renowned Institute of International Relations, an institution known for training spies and diplomats, has also advanced a similar theory.
"The fact is that the current President Vladimir Putin is living out the last days of his earthly life." The head of Ukrainian military intelligence Lt-Gen Kyrylo Budanov has alleged the real Putin has not been seen since June 2022," Solovey recently said.
"The one, who everyone used to know, was last seen around 26 June 2022," he added.
A recent Japanese TV report used artificial intelligence to scrutinize Putin's facial features, gait, and voice across various public appearances, leading to the conclusion that he might be using one or even two body doubles.
However, Peskov, the spokesperson, had previously claimed that there are no body doubles involved in Putin's official work or other activities.
Specifically on the heart problems, Peskov said: "He is well - this is no more than just another canard." The spokesman said: "These [kinds of stories] belong to the category of fake news, discussed with enviable tenacity by a number of media outlets. This brings nothing but a smile [in the Kremlin]."
In April, Peskov acknowledged the widespread reports regarding Putin's doppelgangers but claimed that the Russian leader was "mega-active" and personally engaged in his duties.
"Perhaps you had heard that Putin has multiple doubles, who work instead of him while he is sitting inside a bunker," he said. "This is yet more lies. This is one more lie. You see our president. He is just as he used to be - mega-active."
The Telegram channel is allegedly run by a former Kremlin lieutenant-general who goes by the alias Viktor Mikhailovich. The channel alleges that Putin's key officials and security operatives oversee the actions of these alleged body doubles.