In late October 2023, a number of viral online posts and articles claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin had died on Oct. 26, 2023, and a coup was underway in Moscow.
The rumors reportedly spread after a Telegram channel called General SVR claimed Putin had gone into cardiac arrest on Oct. 22, 2023. Other reports claimed Putin had been using a body double since.
A Nov. 2, 2023, post on X cited Valery Solovey, a Russian political analyst, saying he confirmed Putin’s death in an interview, adding, “Now he [Putin] is in the refrigerator compartment of his residence in Valda.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Oct. 27, 2023, that stories of Putin’s death were a hoax. In a statement to Russian state-owned newswire RIA Novosti, he said rumors of Putin’s death and a body double replacing him were “an absurd information canard.”
Peskov also denied similar claims about Putin’s death and the use of body doubles a few days earlier, according to Reuters: "Everything is fine with him,” he said. “This belongs to the category of absurd information hoaxes that a whole series of media discuss with enviable tenacity. This evokes nothing but a smile.”
Rumors of Putin’s death and his various health crises have circulated for years. We have frequently debunked them here at Snopes.
An analysis in the Ukrainian media outlet by Steve Brown, an English language editor with the Kyiv Post, contends that these rumors are only growing. The GeneralSVR Telegram channel has half a million subscribers, according to the Kyiv Post, and posted a range of claims over a few weeks in October and November 2023, including that Putin’s body double was allegedly holding meetings and had even come down with COVID-19.
Ukrainian intelligence claimed that the rumors are generated and spread from within the Kremlin, to gauge the reaction of the Russian public and to help the government tighten domestic control. Andrii Yusov, a Ukrainian military intelligence spokesperson, told Ukrainian media, “The basic purpose of fake news is to look at how society reacts in terms of numbers and dynamics. [The purpose is] to look at the reactions of individuals, the elite and the media.”
The Russian government has almost always consistently denied any claims of Putin’s ill health and potential death, except for a rare instance where leaders said he had a “cold” in 2018.
At the moment, there is no evidence to prove Putin is dead, or that a body double has taken his place. In late October 2023, in a televised statement to his government officials, Putin said the "ruling elites of the U.S." and their "satellites" stood behind killings of Gaza's Palestinians, and behind conflicts in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Brown, Steve. “Analysis: Is Putin Dead? Rumors of the Russian President’s Demise Just Won’t Go Away.” Get the Latest Ukraine News Today - KyivPost, https://www.kyivpost.com/analysis/23777. Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.
“Fake News about Putin’s Death Intended to Test Russians’ Reaction – Defence Intelligence of Ukraine.” Ukrainska Pravda, https://www.pravda.com.ua/eng/news/2023/11/1/7426726/. Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.
Kilner, James. “Kremlin Spread Rumour Putin Had Died to ‘Test His Popularity.’” The Telegraph, 2 Nov. 2023. www.telegraph.co.uk, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2023/11/02/kremlin-russia-vladimir-putin-death-test-popularity-ukraine/. Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.
“Kremlin Says Putin Is Healthy, Laughs off Body Double Rumours.” Reuters, 24 Oct. 2023. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/kremlin-rejects-speculation-that-putin-is-ill-uses-body-doubles-2023-10-24/. Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.