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Not a "corpse from a refrigerator", but very tired: media report on state of Putin's health

Friday, 8 December 2023, 11:52
Not a corpse from a refrigerator, but very tired: media report on state of Putin's health

In the run-up to presidential elections in Russia, some journalists decided to analyse the state of Vladimir Putin's health as he prepares to run for a fifth term and rule Russia until at least 2030. They concluded that the Russian president is exhausted and behaving bizarrely.

Source: Proekt (The Project), a Russian news outlet engaged in investigative journalism

Quote from Proekt: "To cut a long story short, he's not a corpse from the refrigerator [as political analyst Valery Solovei claimed when he reported Putin's death in Valdai on 26 October on Telegram – ed.]. But he is very tired of his own people."


Details: The journalists analysed all the events involving the Russian dictator over the past year and concluded that Putin spent only 147 days in public (i.e. less than 5 months out of 12).

January was the month in which Putin spent the least amount of time in public: a mere seven days. For the rest of the time, Putin stayed in his residence, and no journalists – or anyone other than officials close to him and loyal politicians – were invited to meet him.

The journalists noticed that the president tends to alternate between bursts of intense public activity and long periods of absence. For example, Putin held four important public events on 28 September 2023, but over the previous six days, no one but his closest associates had seen him. Putin appeared in public on 29 September, but nobody saw him again for the next four days (until 3 October).

Meetings with Putin have recently been held remotely

Proekt also points out that many of the reports of Putin's cabinet meetings that the Kremlin released during those 10 non-public days look "canned" [i.e. filmed in advance by the Russian president's personal cameraman and released by the Kremlin press service on Putin's days off – ed.].

The journalists also highlight several strange anomalies: at many meetings, Putin seems to keep his distance from other people, whereas on other occasions, he actually goes into the crowd.

Putin attended 43% of events remotely last year. Another 36% of meetings required all attendees to be quarantined.


521 public events involving Vladimir Putin from November 2022 to October 2023

43% involve distancing

36% involve quarantine

21% Putin interacts with people with no quarantine

INFOGRAPHICS: PROEKT. Putin’s interaction with people

"This distancing sometimes takes on quite astonishing forms. We found that at many forums, a fence is literally put up in front of the president on stage, separating the head of state from the audience. And outside, Putin's interlocutors are forced to stand behind a specially drawn red line over 10 metres away from him," Proekt reports.


A fence at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, June 2023


Putin making a speech to workers at the Zvezda shipyard. Putin is standing 10 metres away from the audience


And yet a fifth (21%) of all events involving Putin took place without any distance or quarantine, for example, meetings with international visitors or following dramatic events.

The media outlet notes that Putin, who had not been seen in public since the start of the epidemic, first spoke about the importance of people just a few days after the failed June coup by Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Putin interacting 'closely' with the public after Prigozhin's failed coup.

The story's authors noticed that this always happens so unexpectedly that many people, including some journalists in the Kremlin circle, have started to believe that the president has a body double.

"Proekt also recalls an incident that happened in the Kremlin on 5 April 2023. During a ceremony in which foreign ambassadors were presenting their credentials, Putin fell into a state of confusion as he was delivering his speech, and then failed to comprehend for some time whether the ambassadors were going to come up to him and present their credentials.

He was clearly at a loss as to what to do, and was looking over his papers in bewilderment. There was no one to help the president as he stood alone on one side of the Kremlin's vast Alexander Hall, with the ambassadors, along with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and presidential aide Yuri Ushakov, on the other. The head of state asked Lavrov desperately for help. But he needed a microphone so that the minister could hear him. So everyone heard the president's question: 'Is that it?' When the minister nodded, the president announced an early end to the event." This is how Proekt describes the events of that day.

Reports suggest that the people who spend the most time with Putin are his bodyguards, doctors, and the "nuclear briefcase" carriers.

For example, during every major event, such as Putin's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, seven or eight people ensuring his security can be seen in the immediate vicinity of the Russian president. The journalists have managed to identify many of these people. 

Several doctors at least accompanied the Russian president when he went to meet Kim Jong-un in April 2019. Some of them appear in a single photo, including ENT doctor Igor Yesakov, oncologist Yevgeny Selivanov and neurologist Roman Rotankov.

1. Igor Yesakov, ENT doctor. 2. Dmitry Shumeiko, "nuclear briefcase" holder; 3. Yevgeny Selivanov, oncologist; 4. Roman Rotankov, neurologist


  • On 7 December, reports emerged that Russian presidential elections will take place on 17 March.
  • Earlier, Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president’s press secretary, claimed that he had "no doubt that Putin will win" the election. The official also added that Russia's next leader would be "the same" as Vladimir Putin or "somebody different, but still the same as Putin".
  • Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation has announced the launch of its Russia Without Putin campaign and urged Russians to use the time before the election to speak out against the dictator. [Navalny is considered to be the leader of the Russian opposition, although he is known for his remarks in favour of Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian Crimea – ed.]

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