Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday revealed there was a secret plan to use a double to make public appearances for him, while insisting he vetoed it — and that he is the real Putin.
Putin’s comments showed that a conspiracy theory widespread on the internet that the Russian strongman has been impersonated over the years or even replaced by a lookalike is not entirely without basis.
TASS state news agency showed Putin a list of popular Russian-language Internet searches including “Putin double proof”.
“Are you real?” the interviewer asked.
“Yes,” said Putin.
He said he has never had a double but when asked if the idea had ever been discussed, he confirmed it had.
“I refused to have doubles,” Putin said. “It was during the hardest times of the fight against terrorism.”
Putin as prime minister and then president oversaw the second war against separatists in Chechnya from 1999 to 2000.
After Russian armed forces claimed victory, Islamist insurgent attacks became frequent in the North Caucasus while suicide bombers targeted Russia’s main cities.
“Was that in the early 2000s?” asked interviewer Andrei Vandenko, who is doing a series of interviews with Putin to mark 20 years since he became president.
“Yes,” said Putin.
“The double would go where things were dodgy?” asked Vandenko.
“Well yes, go, put in appearances,” Putin confirmed.
These centred on the 67-year-old’s apparent lack of signs of ageing, the disappearance of bags under his eyes and his seemingly worsening knowledge of German, which he learned when working as a Soviet agent in East Germany.
In 2015, Putin disappeared from public view for 10 days, unleashing a frenzy of speculation that he had once again become a father, been deposed in a palace coup, fallen ill, had cosmetic surgery or even died.
“It’s boring without gossip,” Putin said after reappearing.
Russia decided on Thursday to contest its ban from major sporting events over doping violations, as President Vladimir Putin slammed its sidelining as unfair and insisted athletes should be able to compete under the national flag.
Russia’s RUSADA anti-doping agency “made a decision not to agree” with the four-year ban by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s decision, the head of RUSADA’s supervisory board, Alexander Ivlev, told journalists.
The decision will have to be communicated to WADA before the end of the month, triggering the appeal process in the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
WADA on December 10 banned Russia for four years from major global events, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, over manipulated doping data.
Putin appeared to indicate a lengthy legal battle loomed, as he addressed a throng of journalists in his annual press conference.
“We will have to calmly await all the relevant decisions, including the decision by the arbitration court, then we will understand what position we’re in,” he said when asked about the prospect of cancellation of events on Russian territory.
Putin reiterated that he believes WADA’s decision to be “not only unjust but also not corresponding with common sense or law”, saying Russia was being punished the second time for the same alleged offence.
He argued that the majority of Russian athletes were clean and should not be deprived of the right to compete under the Russian flag due to the actions of some individuals.
“If WADA does not have any issues with our national Olympic committee our team must compete under its flag,” Putin said.
“If a majority of our athletes are clean how is it possible to slap sanctions against them for someone else’s actions?
“Russian athletes have been training and will be training for competition. They will keep making us happy with their brilliant victories,” Putin said.
Under the sanctions, Russians will still be allowed to compete at the Olympics next year and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, but only as neutrals and if they can demonstrate that they were not part of what WADA believes was a state-sponsored system of doping.
He added that some events scheduled in Russia, namely the Euro 2020, which would partly be hosted by Saint-Petersburg, would go on since “the tickets have been sold”.
“WADA is not going to reimburse the tickets, is it?” he said.
In fact, Russia’s participation in Euro 2020 — and Saint Petersburg’s hosting of four matches — is not affected by the ban because it is not defined as a “major event” for anti-doping purposes.
– ‘Inefficient and useless’ –
The director-general of RUSADA, Yuri Ganus, who has long argued for a major crackdown by Russia against doping cheats, had told AFP prior to the decision that appealing WADA’s ban would be “inefficient and useless.”
Ganus, whose rigorous stance puts him at odds with his own government and supervisory board, argues that Moscow needs to accept the sanctions and own up to its faults in order to be able to reform.
The suspension was handed to Russia over falsifying data from a doping testing laboratory that was handed to WADA earlier this year as part of the compliance re-instatement process.
The significant extent of state-sponsored doping in Russia, notably between 2011 and 2015, was revealed in the independent report by sports lawyer Richard McLaren, released in 2016.
The issue has dealt a colossal blow to the status of post-Soviet Russia as a major sports power after hosting events such as the 2013 World Athletics Championships, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup.
The Sochi Games later became notorious for the number of doping violations by prominent Russian athletes.
The situation has also divided Russian sports stars, with three-time world champion high jumper Mariya Lasitskene calling on sports officials to be held to account over the ban.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said that the impeachment of Donald Trump was based on “made-up” grounds, adding he did not believe it marked the end of the US president.
“It still needs to go through the Senate, where the Republicans have a majority,” Putin said after the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power. “And it is hardly likely that they are going to push out of office a representative of their own party, on grounds that are absolutely made-up,” he added.
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday insisted Russia’s athletes should be allowed to compete under the Russian flag, despite a four-year ban handed down by the world anti-doping agency from major sporting events over systematic violations.
“If WADA does not have any issues with our national Olympic committee our team must compete under its flag,” Putin said during an annual end-of-year news conference, insisting that most of Russia’s athletes were clean.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said “nobody knows” what causes climate change, appearing to cast doubt over whether global warming was of man-made origin and stating it may be due to cosmological processes.
“Nobody knows the origins of global climate change,” Putin told reporters at the start of his marathon end-of-year news conference. “We know that in the history of our Earth there have been periods of warming and cooling and it could depend on processes in the universe,” he added.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Russian President, Vladimir Putin on Wednesday agreed to put Nigeria-Russia relations on a fast track, and pursue the completion of partially completed and abandoned projects initiated by both countries.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Russian President, Vladimir Putin on Wednesday agreed to put Nigeria-Russia relations on a fast track, and pursue the completion of partially completed and abandoned projects initiated by both countries.
At a bilateral meeting which was held on Wednesday at the ongoing Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, the two leaders agreed to start new infrastructure projects and expand trade and investment, security and military cooperation.
In statements made by both leaders, Nigeria and Russia will work together to improve efficiency of Nigeria’s oil sector, which is the backbone of the economy, in a way that will see to rehabilitation of epileptic oil refineries through establishment of framework for a joint venture between Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Russia-based leading oil company, Lukoil.
Both NNPC and Lukoil will work towards the prospection of oil in deep offshore.
Nigeria and Russia also agreed to revive and solidify the venture between the NNPC and Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom for the development of Nigeria’s enormous gas potential and infrastructure.
The issue of uncompleted and abandoned Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill was presented by President Buhari. His request for the return of Russia, on a government-to-government relationship for completion and commissioning of the plant was accepted by President Putin.
Earlier in the day, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arch Olamilekan Adegbite had a very fruitful discussion with his counterpart in Russia on Ajaokuta.
The Russia government agreed to support the development of Nigeria’s rail infrastructure by constructing 1,400 kilometres track from Lagos to the South-South city of Calabar.
There was also a discussion on the advancement of ongoing projects for the establishment of a nuclear power plant in Nigeria. According to President Putin, the next step in the implementation of the project should be the commencement of the construction of a power plant.
On security and military cooperation, one that existed for fifty-nine years of Nigeria’s independence, President Buhari agreed to renew Nigeria-Russia Military Technical Agreement that had lapsed within a short time, saying: “I have directed the Minister of Defence to work with the Ministry of Justice to conclude this matter within the shortest possible time.”
This military cooperation agreement is expected to give impetus to further cooperation indirect procurement of military hardware on a government-to-government basis at a lower cost as well as training of military personnel and modernization of armed forces and renewal of infrastructure and equipment which President Putin promised to undertake.
On the protracted issue of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, Ikot-Abasi, Akwa-Ibom State, President Buhari said that he had asked the Ministry of Justice, “to submit a comprehensive report on the UC Russel (the Russian owners of the plant) matter…I want to assure you that the aim of our reforms is to ensure such investments are concluded and actualized in a professional and painless manner.”
The two Presidents also addressed partnerships in education and agriculture. The Russia leader said they would give additional scholarships to Nigerians.
“We seek your Government’s support especially in the areas of wheat production. Today, Nigeria produces less than one hundred thousand metric tons of wheat locally while our imports are projected to exceed five million tons in 2020.
“We, therefore, need your support to bridge the deficit which will create jobs and save our foreign exchange for other important areas like security, defence and infrastructure,” President Buhari said.
On this, President Putin promised to promote joint efforts, given his country’s ranking as the current number one wheat producer in the world.
“We can do a lot together,” Putin added.
The Russian President said Nigeria should take advantage of Russia’s potassium resources to advance President Buhari’s local fertiliser production program. Putin promised his country’s support for the geological prospection of Nigeria’s solid minerals and gave assurances of working with Nigeria and other African countries to secure and stop the incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as they did in securing the Somali coastal areas.
President Putin expressed further determination to secure Nigeria and the rest of Africa from terrorists. He told President Buhari that 2,000 ex-ISIS terrorists joined Boko Haram last year.
In conclusion, President Buhari said:
“ to move forward, may I suggest that our countries organize the fifth Joint Commission meeting to review and ratify all the agreements (about 40) contained in the Intergovernmental Nigeria-Russia Joint Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Protocol of November 11, 2016.”
President Putin agreed to the proposal.
Both leaders emphasized the need for reform of the United Nations Security Council. President Buhari asked Russia to support Nigeria’s aspiration for permanent membership of the council.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday met with President Vladimir Putin of Russia during the plenary session of the Russia-Africa Economic Forum in Sochi.
The plenary session was attended by other world leaders including African Heads of State and governments, Chairman of the African Union etc.
Senior Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and publicity, Garba Shehu had earlier in a statement said his principal and the Russian leader would meet at Nigeria and Russian bilateral meeting on Wednesday, while President Buhari would make a statement at the summit on Thursday.
Other participants at the summit that will showcase Russian interest and investment potential in Africa include businessmen, experts, investors, leaders of major sub-regional associations and organisations.
President Muhammadu Buhari departs Abuja Monday to attend a three-day Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia, October 23rd – 25th, with focus on exploring and expanding opportunities in security, trade and investment, science and technology, and gas production.
During the summit, President Buhari will meet with President Vladimir Putin of Russia to further strengthen relations in security, trade and investment, and building partnership that will enhance Nigeria’s huge gas potential, following Russia’s remarkable success in gas exportation.
The summit, which will be attended by African Heads of State, will bring fresh perspectives on some global issues and challenges like nuclear technology, energy development, digital transformation, environment, technical security, mining and steel, education, agriculture, infrastructure and development strategies.
An African Business Forum, which will bring together African and Russian business leaders, will be held during the event to enhance Russian investments in Africa, and promote African business interest in the host country.
President Buhari will be accompanied by Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.
Others on the trip are: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite and Minister of State, Petroleum, Timipre Sylva.
The President will return to the country after the summit.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday hosts Vladimir Putin for a rare bilateral visit by the Russian strongman to a major EU power, seeking to press the Kremlin to help end the conflict in Ukraine.
The relationship between a youthful French leader who regards himself as a champion of European liberalism and Putin, in power for two decades, has been marked by wariness and tensions.
But Paris is keen to keep relations alive, even at a time of intense strain between Russia and the West, with the French presidency emphasising the importance of finding common ground on shared interests.
Macron will meet Putin at his summer retreat of the Bregancon fortress on France’s Mediterranean coast in the early evening, just days before he hosts world leaders including US President Donald Trump for the August 24-26 Group of Seven (G7) summit in Biarritz.
The high-walled medieval fortress will provide a grand venue for talks that will seek to ease the tensions marking the complex bilateral relationship between Paris and Moscow.
Macron hosted Putin shortly after coming to office in 2017 in near imperial style at the palace of Versailles outside Paris.
But the press conference at that event was marked by an iciness with the French president in front of an impassive Putin accusing Russian state media of broadcasting “lying propaganda”.
– ‘Room for manoeuvre’ – Russia was slung out of what was the G8 in 2014 after it seized Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, an annexation the international community deems illegal.
It sparked a war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists which has so far claimed more than 13,000 people.
Macron has taken a keen interest in brokering an end to the conflict and believes that the arrival in power of new Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky could give a new impulse to halting the fighting.
Zelensky has offered to meet Putin for face-to-face talks and spoken to him by phone in recent weeks.
“President Zelensky has made offers to which — it seems to us — President Putin should respond in an encouraging way,” said a French official, who asked not to be named.
“The election of President Zelensky gives us some room for manoeuvre,” the official added.
Brokering peace in eastern Ukraine would be a major feather in the cap for Macron, who since coming to office in 2017 has sought to magnify France’s international role.
Kremlin advisor Yuri Ushakov said that the dialogue between France and Russia had “intensified” in recent months and that Putin’s visit was the “logical continuation” of his regular contact with Macron
Alexander Baunov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Macron would be looking for ways to resuscitate the 2015 Minsk ceasefire deal which Paris and Berlin helped broker.
“The main public issue will be reviving the Minsk accords,” Baunov told AFP.
– ‘Very useful chance’ – Iran will also feature high on the agenda, with Paris keen for Moscow to use its close ties with Tehran to prevent a further escalation of conflicts in the Middle East.
Tensions have shot up since Washington’s unilateral pullout from a 2015 deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Macron is expected to press Putin to use his influence with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop an offensive in the northern region of Idlib and ward off new refugee flows towards Turkey.
A source of tension could come from the domestic situation in Russia, with France repeatedly rebuking Moscow over its crackdown on protesters who are angered by a refusal to register opposition candidates for elections later this year.
In a possible gesture of goodwill by the Russian authorities, French banker Philippe Delpal, who had spent the last six months behind bars in Russia on fraud charges, was released into house arrest on Thursday.
Former French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine told the Figaro daily that Putin’s visit marked a “very useful chance to move France and, if possible Europe, out of the impasse” in their relations.
British Prime Minister Theresa May told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that normal relations will not be restored until Moscow ends its “irresponsible and destabilising” activity, a Downing Street spokesperson said.
The comments came as May met Putin for the first time since the row over the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.
“She told the president that there cannot be a normalisation of our bilateral relationship until Russia stops the irresponsible and destabilising activity that threatens the UK and its allies — including hostile interventions in other countries, disinformation and cyber attacks,” the spokesperson said.
May also told Putin, in the talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan’s Osaka, that Britain “has irrefutable evidence that Russia was behind the attack” on the former spy.
“The prime minister underlined that we remain open to a different relationship, but for that to happen the Russian government must choose a different path.”
London has made clear that May’s meeting with Putin does not represent a thawing of ties with Russia, despite calls from Putin for the two countries to “turn the page”.
Ties have been severely strained since the March 2018 poisoning of the former Russian spy and double agent Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury.
The incident led to dozens of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and a breakdown in already fragile relations between Moscow and London.
Russia has repeatedly denied any part in his killing.
Earlier this month, Putin said it was time to “turn the page” on the countries’ difficult relationship after the poisoning.
“Global issues related to national interests in the economic and social spheres and global security are more important than games of security services,” said the Kremlin leader.
Skripal sold secrets to Britain and moved there after a 2010 spy swap.
Last year, he and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent, the first use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II.
London says the attempted assassination was “almost certainly” approved by the Russian state.
The G20 will be one of May’s last trips as prime minister as Britain awaits a new leader.
Former foreign minister and London mayor Boris Johnson is the favourite to succeed her in an election that will be decided in a vote by members of the ruling Conservative party.
The winner will be announced on July 23, and will formally take office on July 24 and Putin has voiced hope relations could improve under a new PM.
The summit in the Far Eastern port city came with Kim locked in a nuclear stand-off with the United States and Putin keen to put Moscow forward as a player in another global flashpoint.
The two leaders greeted each other warmly, shaking hands and sharing smiles, at the start of meetings on an island off Vladivostok that lasted nearly five hours.
Putin, known for delaying meetings with international guests, was waiting for Kim when he emerged from his limousine.
Both men said they were looking to strengthen ties that date back to the Soviet Union’s support for the founder of North Korea, Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung.
– Borscht, crab, dumplings – Kim said he hoped to turn the modern relationship with Moscow into a “more stable and sound one” while Putin said the visit would give a boost to diplomatic and economic ties.
Putin said he supported Kim’s efforts to normalise relations with the United States and hoped to find out “what Russian can do” to help with the issue of denuclearisation.
The two later shared a lunch that included borscht, crab salad and venison dumplings, Russian news agency TASS reported.
Putin told reporters after Kim departed that he would fill in Washington on the results of the talks.
“There are no secrets here, no conspiracies… Chairman Kim himself asked us to inform the American side of our position,” said Putin, who was due to fly on to Beijing for another summit.
Kim, who arrived a day earlier in his armoured train, was expected to stay in Vladivostok until Friday for cultural events that Russian media have reported will include ballet and a visit to the city’s aquarium.
The meeting was Kim’s first with another head of state since returning from his Hanoi summit with US President Donald Trump, which broke down in February without a deal on North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
It followed repeated invitations from Putin after Kim embarked on a series of diplomatic overtures last year.
Since March 2018, the North Korean leader has held four meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, three with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, two with Trump and one with Vietnam’s president.
At the meeting with Trump in Hanoi, the cash-strapped North demanded immediate relief from sanctions, but the talks broke up in disagreement over what Pyongyang was prepared to give up in return.
Russia has already called for the sanctions to be eased, while the US has accused it of trying to help Pyongyang evade some of the measures — accusations Russia denies.
There were no concrete announcements or agreements, but analysts said Thursday’s meeting was valuable to both sides.
“For North Korea, it’s all about securing another exit. China talks about sanctions relief but it doesn’t really put it into action,” said Koo Kab-woo, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
“For Russia, North Korea is elevating it back to one of the direct parties, on the same footing as China.”
– North Korean labourers – Among the issues that were likely discussed was the fate of some 10,000 North Korean labourers working in Russia and due to leave by the end of this year under sanctions.
Labour is one of North Korea’s key exports and sources of cash. Pyongyang has reportedly asked Russia to continue to employ its workers after the deadline.
Moscow was a crucial backer of Pyongyang for decades and their ties go back to the founding of North Korea, when the Soviet Union installed Kim Il Sung as leader.
The USSR reduced funding to the North as it began to seek reconciliation with Seoul in the 1980s, but Pyongyang was hit hard by its demise in 1991.
Soon after his first election as Russian president, Putin sought to normalise relations and met Kim Jong Il — the current leader’s father and predecessor — three times, including a 2002 meeting also held in Vladivostok.
China has since cemented its role as the isolated North’s most important ally, its largest trading partner and crucial fuel supplier, and analysts say Kim could be looking to balance Beijing’s influence.
While ties between Moscow and Pyongyang have remained cordial, the last meeting between their leaders came in 2011, when Kim Jong Il told then-president Dmitry Medvedev that he was prepared to renounce nuclear testing.
His son has since overseen by far the country’s most powerful blast to date, and launch of missiles which Pyongyang says are capable of reaching the entire US mainland.