Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the president’s areas of work outside of Moscow and in Sochi are not identical. “That’s not true,” he told journalists on a conference call on Wednesday. The Proekt report, Peskov said, was part of a series of exposés about Putin’s personal life that were an “information campaign, an information attack” on the president.
“The president has many offices and not identical offices,” said Peskov. He challenged Proekt’s use of flight records to contradict official statements about Putin’s whereabouts. Presidential planes are temporarily outside Moscow, he said, but declined to discuss certain flights, noting that the head of state’s movements are classified for security reasons.
Mr Putin has told the Russian news media that he has rejected plans to use ruse to protect his security. In February, he told the Tass news agency that at the start of his tenure he had refused to use a body double to deceive potential assassins.
This year, verifying Mr Putin’s whereabouts has only gotten more difficult as he has taken exceptional precautions against the virus, even by the standards of other heads of state.
Russian journalists covering the president in the Kremlin pool have rarely seen him up close since March, reporters said. Visitors must quarantine themselves for up to two weeks before they can come within breath. And even then, before they meet Mr Putin, they have to go through a disinfection tunnel – a structure that resembles a metal detector at the airport that sprays a fine mist of antiseptics.
The president has conducted so many television meetings via video link that state television posted a special report on the website this summer noting the microphones and screens available for meetings – and found that they were in the government residence outside of Moscow and not on the coast.
A site that republished the story, T Journal, sparked hundreds of comments from readers rummaging over photos of Mr Putin, who was fit for state business and seriously engaged in what appeared to be offices. Some found signs of ruse.