It has long been claimed that Vladimir Putin manipulates the Russian public into submission, that the country now follows the old Soviet Union mentally that the majority should not interfere in politics. Not only is this claimed, but it is often said that Russia has “its own realities”. Some of the “lies” peddled by the Kremlin are on a larger scale such as the Russian foreign minister insisting they “did not attack Ukraine” a fortnight after the invasion last year. Another misinformation spread was on a smaller scale, prior to the war taking place, in a bid to keep the President’s absence under wraps. However, this strange lie was once caught by eagle-eyed Kremlin watchers.
Sarah Rainsford, the former BBC Moscow correspondent, has revealed that during her time covering the 70-year-old leader, she learned that the Kremlin kept a backlog of footage of Putin ready to pull out whenever necessary.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Putin podcast, released last year, she revealed that the tapes were specially recorded of Putin having meetings with various senior officials.
They were stockpiled and then aired whenever Putin needed to “disappear from view” for reasons that the Kremlin “did not want to admit”.
Ms Rainsford said: “I was thinking about this idea about how Russia has its own realities and sort of plays with truth and… frankly lies. I remembered how we learned at some point during my time in Moscow about the Kremlin practice of keeping canned footage. , as they call it, of meetings that Putin held with senior officials.”
She continued: “So he would call them to the Kremlin and they would sit at a table at his office and discuss some item of policy and those meetings would then be recorded and stuck on the shelf.
“Whenever Putin has some health problem and disappears for a couple of weeks this canned footage would be pulled off the shelf and played to the nation to disguise the fact that Mr. Putin was actually absent.
“They would then be pulled out to be used when, for whatever reason for health reasons, Putin would disappear from view but the Kremlin never wanted to admit to that.”
Rumors about Putin’s health have long circulated with it being claimed that he has the likes of Parkinson’s and cancer.
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Late last year, sources close to him claimed that he was suffering from a series of health conditions that were leaving him bloated and unstable.
The rumors reached a climax in January when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that he did not know if Putin was ‘still alive’.
Ms Rainsford revealed that the Kremlin’s carefully orchestrated plan of airing footage when Putin was otherwise predisposed did not always run smoothly — on one occasion his absence was revealed.
A video of Putin having a meeting with a governor was aired at the same time that the very same governor was holding another meeting live on TV.
She continued: “That was unwittingly revealed to those more careful watchers of Mr. Putini and of the Kremlin.
“Unfortunately, a video of him meeting a governor in the Kremlin was played at the same time as that governor was at home holding an official meeting in his own region, in his own province.
“So the lie was exposed, and the attempts to hide Mr. Putin’s absence were revealed.”
Ms Rainsford, who had traveled to Russia since she was a teenager, was expelled from Russia in 2021 after she was deemed a “threat to national security”.