Was the footage of Putin at the Easter service doctored?

Was the footage of Putin at the Easter service doctored?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: No, but closely scrutinizing Putin videos for signs of illness and/or Kremlin chicanery is one of the more enjoyable new frontiers in blogging.


Ed wrote earlier about the footage of Putin taken yesterday when he attended, or supposedly attended, Orthodox Easter services at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. Some say he looked unsteady on his feet but Ed saw nothing amiss. Neither did I. To me he looks like any 69-year-old man forced to stand for awhile.

But there’s a more interesting angle to the footage. Namely, was Putin present at the service at all?

Suspicions were aroused by the fact that video of the event that aired on Russian TV repeatedly showed him and the mayor of Moscow in an isolated shot, off to the side of the altar by themselves, while the clergy conducted the service. Why wasn’t he shown in the same shot as them?

Was he really there at all?

I rolled my eyes when I saw that tweet. Putin’s just obscured momentarily by the clutch of priests in front of the camera, isn’t he? Besides, where would the footage of him and the mayor have come from if they weren’t really there? You don’t seriously think he pre-recorded the two of them reacting to the service before it was held and then had the footage spliced in afterward to make it seem like they were present while it happened, do you?


Uh, well … yes:

That’s an odd clip. If they’re not pre-recording Putin’s part in the ceremony in that video, what are they doing? If they’re positioning the cameras for the service beforehand to make sure everyone is in frame, they wouldn’t need Putin to stand there. Anyone would do.

There were two competing conspiracy theories to explain Putin’s “role” in the service, in fact. One was the idea it was pre-recorded per the clip above; the other is that the footage was recycled from last year’s Easter service. Putin was dressed almost identically for both services, the only difference being that his tie this year was more of a burgundy red while last year’s was more of a fire-engine red. But couldn’t the color in last year’s footage have been changed via digital manipulation?

How deep does this Kremlin conspiracy go?

The terrible truth appears to be that … Putin was actually present for the service, which is surprising given his fears of assassination and the attention being paid to his physical condition lately. One would think he’d take care to limit his public appearances to the bare essentials. But maybe he considered this one essential: Since he presents himself as a defender of the faith, naturally he’d want to exploit religious devotion to build support for his war in Ukraine.


This video was taken by Agence France Presse. Unless they’re part of a conspiracy to doctor the footage, the tsar was there and in the flesh:

There are photos of him with the clergy in the same frame as well. The AP says its photographer was present for the service and snapped photos of Putin. Pretty cut and dried. He was there.

Maybe he was seeking forgiveness from God for inflicting so much suffering on innocent people? Presumably not, since it seems he’s of the opinion lately that Ukraine hasn’t suffered enough:

Vladimir Putin has lost interest in diplomatic efforts to end his war with Ukraine and instead appears set on seizing as much territory as possible, according to three people briefed on conversations with the Russian president.

“Putin sincerely believes in the nonsense he hears on [Russian] television and he wants to win big,” said a person briefed on the talks.

Putin said peace efforts were at a “dead end” and was infuriated after Ukraine sank the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, according to two people…

After the Moskva sank, “Putin was against signing anything. [ . . . ] after the Moskva he doesn’t look like a winner, because it was humiliating,” the person added.

I’ve seen that point made elsewhere recently, that Putin is no longer merely a dealer of conspiracy theories. Like a drug lord, he’s getting high on his own supply. If he really is ill, medicated due to unspecified illness, and immersed in propaganda about how American-backed Ukrainian Nazis are about to march on Moscow on whatever, there’s no telling where this war might go.


I feel bad leaving you with a debunked Putin video so here’s another one of him with more conspiratorial promise that made the rounds this weekend. This one is actually old-ish (it was already circulating on March 1) but if you believe the rumors about Parkinson’s and tremors, it’s … interesting.

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David Strom 12:31 PM on December 04, 2023