Did Putin Fall Down a Flight of Stairs and Soil Himself?
We came across this headline on twitter and several tabloid news platforms this week and had to investigate this rather startling claim. Allegedly, Russian President Vladimir Putin fell down a flight of stairs and hit his coccyx, which caused him to involuntarily soil himself.
Closely linked with this recent incident are claims about Putin’s health, suggesting that the 70-year-old is in poor condition and struggling to conceal a cancer diagnosis. We dug deeper into news on the alleged fall and reports of his deteriorating physical state to sift out any verifiable or credible information.
Articles about the fall first appeared around 5 days ago, rapidly reported on by UK tabloid platforms such as The Daily Star, The Mirror, and The Metro. These articles all point to the information coming from a single source, Russian Telegram Channel General SRV.
In a detailed post, the channel reported that Putin fell in his official residence in front of his bodyguards, who immediately called for assistance. The post further suggests that Putin has a form of cancer in his gastrointestinal tract that prompted “involuntary defecation.”
Active since the start of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, this channel purports to have insider information from Putin’s inner circle and updates regularly with “reports” on issues such as Putin’s health, military decisions, and political maneuvering within the Russian Government. The poster claims to be a former Russian Foreign Intelligence Service official. However, as the anonymous poster has never named their alleged sources and has never provided tangible evidence to accompany their claims, it is difficult to assign much credibility to their information.
The day after General SVR claims the incident happened, Putin was pictured on an official visit to a lab in Moscow with no visible signs of injury. Just yesterday in a press conference, Putin himself responded to a question about the fall – brushing it off with the statement “I don’t comment [sic] fake news,” and refusing to comment further when pressed. The Russian Press and Information Office has also vehemently denied the claim.
While there are clear reasons as to why Putin would deny such a claim even if it did happen, it does seem that evidence for the fall is lacking – as is the credibility of the anonymous source. We therefore give this claim a rating of Likely False.
However, it is also interesting to note how reporting on the fall has been incorporated into claims about Putin’s ailing health in general. When reported on together, this adds to apparent “growing evidence” that the Russian President is gravely ill. It might also come across as more credible when accompanied by other images of Putin looking bloated and unsteady. It is therefore important to keep firm tabs on the sources being quoted in such reporting and double check how verifiable any supporting evidence is.
The saturation of “Putin is sick” headlines in the media space – the hashtag #PutinPoopedHimself trended on Twitter when news started circulating – makes it difficult to separate fact from speculation. Main and tabloid news media have picked up stories on Putin’s alleged illnesses – which have ranged from prostate, to pancreatic, to blood cancer and Parkinson’s Disease. However, it is significant that none of the sources have been third-party verified. All that exist to date are interpretations of Putin’s actions, and reports from unnamed sources – something which a fact check by Forbes has also noted. This is also partially a byproduct of secrecy from Putin and the Russian Government as well; his location and health status are tightly guarded, which leaves much room for speculation.
These factors must therefore be closely considered when trying to determine how much truth lies in reports over Putin’s health. While it is not possible to definitively say that all health claims are false, the evidence offered in much of the reporting is just as hard to verify.