The Kremlin spread rumors that President Vladimir Putin had died to test his popularity and strengthen his grip on Russia, according to Ukraine.
Andrii Yusov, a spokesman for the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, said that the bombshell report of Putin’s demise made last week by the popular Telegram channel General SVR — which purports to be run by a former Russian intelligence officer – was all a ruse by Russia.
While the 71-year-old president’s death would spell “good news” for Ukrainians, it was really “an inside story that it aimed at [the] domestic Russian audience,” Yusov told the Ukrainian outlet Radio NV.
“The basic purpose of fake news is to look at how society reacts in terms of numbers and dynamics, to look at the reactions of individuals, the elite and the media,” he claimed.
“In this way, the empire, which is built on the work of the secret services, learns how to continue to rule,” he said.
General SVR reported on Oct. 27 that Russia’s warmongering leader had died at his forest palace in Valdai, about 250 miles from Moscow, and that his body was being stored in a food freezer.
Following Putin’s alleged demise, a body double has taken his place, with the shadowy Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev pulling the strings behind the scenes, it claimed.
Although the report from the unsourced Telegram channel has not been confirmed, it generated enough attention that the Kremlin was forced to issue an extraordinary denial.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the death rumors an “absurd information fake” — just days after dismissing an earlier report from the same source claiming that the president had suffered a heart attack but was revived.
Putin has been seen at multiple public events and meetings since the president’s rumored death, most recently Thursday — but the Telegram channel has staunchly maintained that it is an imposter.
General SVR has repeatedly claimed, without providing any evidence, that Putin has been battling cancer and Parkinson’s disease — but misinformation researchers warned the account lacks credibility.