What We Know, What We Don’t

Rumors surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s health have doggedly followed him throughout his time in power, often without evidence to support them.

Earlier this week, a story that he had suffered a cardiac arrest led to headlines around the world. The Kremlin denied the claims saying “everything was fine with him.”

Now, however, this reported slide in health has allegedly reached its nadir, if the newest rumor is to be believed.

A Telegram post by Russian gossip channel General SVR, on October 26, 2023, stated that Putin died at his residence in Valdai at “20.42 p.m Moscow time” on Thursday, sparking “a coup d’état in Russia!”

“Now the doctors are blocked in the room with Putin’s corpse, they are being held by employees of the presidential security service on the personal order of Dmitry Kochnev, who is in touch and receives instructions from the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Nikolai Patrushev,” the post added.

“The security of the president’s double has been strengthened. Active negotiations are underway. Any attempt to pass off a double as president after Putin’s death is a coup d’état.”

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his press conference at the Third Belt and Road Forum on October 18, 2023, in Beijing, China. Rumors spread on social media this week that the Russian leader had died
Contributor/Getty Images

As anyone who has followed General SVR’s Telegram channel might predict, there were no evidence or sources cited.

General SVR also shared the rumor earlier this week that Putin had a cardiac arrest, and earlier this month claimed he had named his successor in the event of his death. Both of these stories were also without evidence.

The latest post follows the narrative thread of General SVR’s other stories too. The channel has alleged that Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev is in line to become leader, and has repeatedly said that Moscow has been using body doubles to disguise Putin’s health.

Both Russian and Western media outlets have reported that presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied rumors about Putin’s death.

The Moscow Times reported on Friday, citing state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, that Peskov called the death rumor an “absurd information canard.”

That exact same phrase was attributed to Peskov on Tuesday to deny the earlier rumors of a cardiac arrest.

Newsweek was unable to find the newest Peskov denial via RIA Novosti or elsewhere, and it was unclear if the reports were confusing the alleged comment with the earlier Kremlin denial.

However, the state-owned agency did post a video of Putin on Friday morning via its Telegram channel, at an “operational meeting with members of the Security Council.”

The Kremlin has been contacted for comment via email.

Although the claims shared by General SVR have been widely dismissed, other more credible sources have alleged that Putin has suffered from poor health.

Three intelligence leaders told Newsweek in July 2022 that a classified U.S. report said Putin had undergone treatment in April 2022 for advanced cancer.

The same year, The Moscow Times cited an investigative report by independent Russian media outlet Proekt Media that said Putin was accompanied by doctors, including a thyroid cancer surgeon, on trips to his residence in Sochi from 2016 to 2019 and that doctors “may have performed surgery” on him in November 2016.

Updated 10/27/23 at 4:48 p.m. ET. Changes headline