There is a Vladimir Putin calendar released every year that features photos of the Russian President. However, on Thursday 19 October Steve Rosenberg, Russia editor for BBC News, shared a very interesting video about the most recent edition on X. The recording shows him flicking through the 2024 shots as he makes a keen observation: none of the photos were taken recently.
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All 12 pictures selected show Putin before his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The calendar was put together by the pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda. Rosenberg offers one reason for their selection, while social media users on X suggest that it is about Putin’s ill health. Let’s get into the details.
Rosenberg’s reason for the calendar’s photos
Rosenberg points out that some of the photos are actually very old - one with Putin in sunglasses was taken in 2014 while another of him patting his dog in the snow is from 2013. The BBC editor picked up the calendar from his ‘local Moscow supermarket’, and has an interesting opinion about it: he reckons it has avoided photos taken during the war in Ukraine because including them would have a negative effect on Putin's reputation.
Rosenberg says that the people working at Komsomolskaya Pravda ‘want Russians to see Putin as strong man, cool man, father of the nation, yes. But not Putin as the man who started a war’:
If the invasion of Ukraine has truly rallied the Russian nation behind the president, if it enjoyed support across the board here, you would think that it would feature somehow, somewhere in this calendar. But there’s nothing.
In the video, he goes on to point out that Putin will likely stand for re-election in a few months’ time - the date is scheduled for March 2024. Though most of his critics and rivals are in prison or in exile, the Russian President will be doing everything in his power to come across as a strong leader. Part of this, Rosenberg suggests, will involve playing down the war against Ukraine in the run-up to the election.
Concerns about Putin’s health
Many X users have commented on the video, suggesting that there are no recent photos of Putin because he is either unwell, missing, or even dead. One user, @eileenfinnegan1, wrote:
I will refer you to what General Budanov has been saying for a year. According to him, [Putin's] last public appearance was around June 26, 2022.
Major-General Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Ukrainian military intelligence, and has made some controversial comments about Putin in the past. In September, for example, he claimed that ‘The Putin who everyone used to know was last seen around June 26, 2022’.
These reactions come hot on the heels of a recent announcement made by the General SVR channel, who claimed that the Russian President’s death is ‘imminent’ after a ‘sharp deterioration in his health’.
Similarly, Putin’s trip to China this week reignited long-existing rumours that the Russian leader is using a body double. Indeed, another X user @hansversluys asked:
How many doppelgänger did you spot in the photos?
You can watch Rosenberg’s video here, and take a look at the snaps of Putin that made the selection.
Express: Bizarre Putin calendar sparks health concerns as no new picture of leader is featured