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Putin death rumors were spread by Russian officials: Ukraine intel

A Ukrainian intelligence representative on Wednesday accused Moscow officials of orchestrating the widespread circulation of false rumors that Russian President Vladimir Putin had died.

Last week, multiple Telegram channels falsely reported Putin’s death, and these messages claimed that his demise resulted in Kremlin officials scrambling to devise a succession plan. The rumors quickly spread across various social media platforms, triggering the false report to trend.

The Kremlin soon found itself responding to questions about Putin’s death, calling the rumor a “hoax,” and Putin has since made public appearances.

Andriy Yusov, representative of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), told NV Radio that Moscow officials spread the rumors in an attempt to see how the Russian public would react to the news.

Yusov said that while Putin’s death would be “good news” for Ukrainians, the rumor was actually part of Russia’s disinformation “playbook.”

Vladimir Putin speaks in Korolev, Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is pictured in Korolev, Russia, on October 26, 2023. A Kyiv official accused the Kremlin of spreading the recent false rumors that Putin had died.
Photo by Getty Images

“This is sweet music for Ukrainian listeners, and it should have been good news,” Yusov told NV Radio, according to a translation by Ukrainska Pravda. “It’s an internal story that is intended for an internal Russian audience.”

He continued: “Of course, it does little to help Putin personally, because there are many supporters of conspiracy theories in Russia.”

Yusov also explained why he believes Russia would circulate such an untruth.

“The basic purpose of fake news is to look at how society reacts in terms of numbers and dynamics—whether they believed it, how they reacted, what they are ready for—and to look at the reactions of individuals, the elite and the media (even propaganda outlets),” he said.

“In this way, the empire, which is built on the work of the secret services, learns how to continue to rule.”

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email for comment Wednesday night.

Yusov noted that such disinformation has an affect on Putin as well as on Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

“It is also an instrument of influence on Putin himself or someone like him. He is forced to react, and Peskov is forced to react and prove that this is not the case. That is, he is led down a certain corridor,” Yusov said.

The intelligence official concluded by stating: “It’s obvious that this is not the end of this story, but a particular playbook.”

Though how the Russian public reacted to the rumors is unclear, it has certainly been searching for information regarding their leader’s supposed passing.

The Russian investigative site Agentstvo reported that the search terms “dead Putin,” “dying Putin” and “Putin died” had more than 417,000 impressions on Russia’s most popular search engine, Yandex, last month. Agentstvo added that the majority of these searches were made from October 23 to October 29, coinciding with the first posts about the rumors published on Telegram.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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