Putin accused of using same woman in multiple photo-ops

Vladimir Putin has been accused of using the same people to pose in different roles during presidential photo opportunities, as his war in Ukraine drags into its eleventh month.

A series of keen-eyed critics recognised the faces of several people who appeared to feature in a number of official photographs with the Russian leader – posing as military personnel, sailors, and solemn worshippers.

The matter was first raised on social media by Belarussian journalist Tadeusz Giczan, who posted three photographs of the president standing with groups of people at three separate events.

Russian President Vladimir Putin poses as he delivers a New Year's address to the nation (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin poses as he delivers a New Year's address to the nation (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

The UK-based reporter whipped up a frenzy of speculation on Twitter as he pointed out that the same blonde woman seemingly appeared in all three photos – once in a line-up of soldiers, a second time as a member of a ship’s crew, and a third at a religious ceremony.

Her appearance in all three images – twice posing in the front row, at Mr Putin’s shoulder – prompted a wave of theories to emerge on Twitter that she was in fact used regularly by the Kremlin to populate the president’s meet-and-greet photo opportunities.

“A soldier, a sailor, a devout Christian. God moves in a mysterious way,” Mr Giczan quipped in his accompanying tweet.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

His post quickly amassed more than 78,000 likes, 9,400 retweets, and over 1,500 replies fuelling speculation over the woman’s potential connection to the Russian leader.

CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward also chimed in on the “fascinating” discussion, offering her own hypothesis that the blonde woman might be an “actor” used to fill out the president’s photos.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

She also pointed out that other photographed figures appeared to feature in at least two of the images shared by Mr Giczan.

“This is fascinating,” she wrote. “Who is she? A bodyguard? An actor? There are several other faces who appear in both photos on the right.”

Further conjecture was drummed up by Kyiv Post correspondent Jason Jay Smart, who similarly referred to the woman as an “actor.”

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

He noted that the photograph of the “military” line-up was taken during Mr Putin’s New Year’s Eve address, while the image of the “worshippers” was taken during his Easter address earlier in the year.

Mr Smart also claimed that the blonde woman and the other overlapping figures were most likely rounded up from Mr Putin’s Presidential Protection Office.

“As one would expect: Putin’s New Year’s Eve address did not even use real soldier, but actors (that is - people rounded-up from the Presidential Protection Office),” he tweeted.

“The blonde woman can also be seen in his Easter address. He’s as fake as the value of the Ruble.”

Firefighters extinguish a fire next to houses destroyed during a Russian attack on Kyiv (AP)
Firefighters extinguish a fire next to houses destroyed during a Russian attack on Kyiv (AP)

Former Ukrainian defence minister Andriy P. Zagorodnyuk replied to Mr Smart’s damning tweet, saying: “Obviously. Anyone is surprised?”

Mr Putin devoted his annual New Year’s address on Saturday to rallying the Russian people behind his troops fighting in Ukraine and pledging victory over Ukrainian “neo-Nazis” and a west supposedly intent on “destroying Russia”.

Its soldiers, he said, were fighting for “our motherland, truth and justice ... so that Russia’s security can be guaranteed”.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, told Russia that “no one will ever forgive you” for spreading terror following a series of missile attacks on New Year’s Eve.

“They call themselves Christians. They are very proud of their orthodoxy. But they are following the devil. They support him and are together with him,” he said of the Russian president.

Ukrainian servicemen ride a tank in Torske (Reuters)
Ukrainian servicemen ride a tank in Torske (Reuters)

In other news today, Ukraine claims to have killed as many as 400 Russians in a strike on a military base in an occupied part of Donetsk.

Forces fired at the city of Makiivka and other parts of the Moscow-controlled eastern region on New Year’s Eve.

The Moscow-installed administration of Donetsk said yesterday that at least 25 rockets were fired at the region in the attack.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said as many as 400 Russians were killed – though Russia’s defence ministry put the figure at 63.