Putin health mystery deepens with claims Russia faked his last appearance

Claims that Russia has faked the most recent sighting of president Vladimir Putin have aired after some questioned whether he really attended an Orthodox Easter service in Moscow.

Pictures issued by the Kremlin have struck some with how startlingly similar they are to the images released last year.

Ukrainians have seized on videos and pictures of the president and suggested it was a staged appearance amid rumoured health problems for Putin amid the invasion of Ukraine.

The midnight Easter ceremony held at Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathderal prompted questions over the president's health after some claimed he and Mayor Sergey Sobyanin were wearing the same clothes as they were when previously photographed last year.

Other claims focused on a bloated-looking Putin at a meeting with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, with differences in lighting suggesting to some that the images have been manipulated.

Russian outlet The Village wrote: "Putin is standing in the same suit and with the same candle as on May 2, 2021. This is evidenced by a photo report from the temple on the Kremlin website."

Agentstvo, an opposition investigative media agency has claimed footage of Putin attending the festival has been distorted.

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They said: "In the broadcast of the Easter service from the Easter service from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Putin seemed to disappear for a moment.

"This happened during the switching of shots, from a close-up with the president to a more general one. The place where Putin should be seems to be empty.

"Like last year, there is only one person next to the president – Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.”

Telegram channel Mozhem Obyasnit posted: "Putin-2022 at the service in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is almost indistinguishable from Putin-2021. Social media users, having studied the photos, doubted that the President attended a public event."

The channel continued by urging users to "spot the difference" between the officially released photos, with some commenters believing Putin's face had changed since last year.

Obyasnit continued: "Putin has the same hairstyle, almost the same facial expression, the same candle. Both are on the same background in the same aisle of the cathedral.

"True, in 2021 Putin was sometimes shown against the backdrop of parishioners and priests, but this year, for some reason, they did not do this."

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Ukrainian spokesman Anton Gerashchenko said: "Putin's directors were again caught using video editing and [manipulation]. This time – at… the broadcast of the Easter service."

Within the footage, Putin can be spotted grimacing and biting his lip, which some have interpreted as a sign of his state of mind during the continued invasion of Ukraine.

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