The Kremlin has rejected rumours that President Vladimir Putin has lookalike body doubles who stand in for the 70-year-old leader and that he spends much of his time shielding in a nuclear bunker.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov listed what he said were fabrications about Russia in a speech that touched on the country’s history since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, the causes of the Ukraine war, and the alleged perfidy of Western society.
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“You have probably heard that he [Putin] has very many doubles who work instead of him while he sits in a bunker,” Peskov said at a Moscow conference before chuckling: “Yet another lie.”
“You see yourselves what our president is like: he always was, and is now, mega-active – those who work next to him can hardly keep up with him,” he said.
“His energy can only be envied. His health can, God willing, only be wished for. Of course, he doesn’t sit in any bunkers. This is also a lie,” Peskov added.
The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed speculation that Putin, Russia’s paramount leader since 1999, is ill.
During a state visit to Moscow last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Putin he was convinced voters would support the Russian leader again in a presidential election due in 2024. Putin has not yet said whether he will seek another term.
When he first came to power, Putin promised to end the chaos that gripped post-Soviet Russia in the 1990s, but the invasion of Ukraine is the most serious military crisis any Kremlin chief has faced since the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-89.
The conflict in Ukraine has ushered in the gravest confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, while Putin has decided to pivot away from the West towards China.