Kremlin 'deliberately spread rumour that Putin had died to test how popular he ... trends now
The Kremlin spread a rumour that Putin had died to test how popular he is among Russians, Ukraine has claimed.
Andrii Yusov, a Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman, said that a report last week by a Russian Telegram channel on the alleged death of the Russian leader was a strategy used by Moscow aimed to help it gain a firmer grip on domestic control.
'In this way, the empire, which is built on the work of the secret services, learns how to continue to rule,' Yusov said.
The Telegram channel, General SVR, reported last Friday that the Russian President had died and that he was using body doubles were representing him in public. Body double claims have been made by various parties since the start of the invasion.
The channel, which regularly reports that Putin has died, claimed that Putin's body was resting in a freezer after his alleged death.
However, the claim about his death still gained worldwide media coverage, forcing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to deny it.
Observers have pointed to the Kremlin strongman's changing appearance over the years as possible evidence that he uses someone else to stand in for him on engagements he either does not want to make or considers too dangerous. The speculation ran rife in June when he took selfies with young girls in Derbent
Yusov believes this was all part of a strategy used by Moscow to gauge the reaction among Russians.
'The basic purpose of fake news is to look at how society reacts in terms of numbers and dynamics,' he said.
'[The purpose is] to look at the reactions of individuals, the elite and the media.'
There has been no authoritative analysis to tie the Kremlin to the channel.
General SVR has also covered several alleged humiliations suffered by the Russian President, such as soiling himself and falling down the stairs.
The Telegram channel has distanced itself from the Kremlin and claims to be authored by a former officer in Moscow's intelligence service.
The Kremlin was forced to deny growing rumours that Putin suffered a cardiac earlier this month, and laughed off claims that he uses body doubles to cover for him in public appearances.
'Everything is fine with him, this is absolutely another fake [rumour],' Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted on October 24 when asked about a report that Putin had suffered a serious health episode days before.
Peskov laughed in response to a further question about body doubles, and denied that Putin had any.
'I can tell you there are no doubles when it comes to work and so on,' Peskov said.
He added: '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].'
It was the second time this year Peskov has been forced to issue a denial about a swirl of reports on the use of doppelgängers, often seen as linked to Putin's supposedly serious health problems.
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow
A recent picture of Putin with Chechen republic head Ramzan Kadyrov showed the Russian president appearing bloated with mottled skin
Peskov stressed the President - who has plunged Russia and Ukraine into a debilitating war - was fit and well. The rumours amounted to an 'absurd hoax', he said.
Putin, a judo enthusiast who has long cultivated an 'action man' image, turned 71 on October 7 and rumours of his ill health have been swirling for years.
Most recently, the General SVR Telegram channel, which regularly alleges Putin is terminally ill with cancer, alleged he suffered a 'cardiac arrest'.
The channel said all recent