Vladimir Putin died on October 26, 2023 at 8:42 p.m., says Russian professor Valerii Solovei. There are no proofs, but now he is a favorite expert of the Ukrainian media and a YouTube star. Why?

Yuliana Skibitska
Dmytro Rayevskyi
Vladimir Putin died on October 26, 2023 at 8:42 p.m., says Russian professor Valerii Solovei. There are no proofs, but now he is a favorite expert of the Ukrainian media and a YouTube star. Why?

Valery Solovei, March 2014.

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On October 26, 2023, the anonymous General SVR Telegram channel reported that Vladimir Putin died at his residence in Valdai. Allegedly, he is lying in a freezer, and the duties of the Russian president are now performed by a double. On the same day, the Russian political analyst, Professor Valerii Solovei "confirmed" this. In the three months since the announcement, no real evidence has emerged that Putin actually died. He even appeared in public, for example, when he gave an interview to Tucker Carlson. However, Solovei continues to say that Russia is run by a doppelgänger, not the real Putin. Since 2016, Valerii Solovei has been building his career as a public political expert on the fact that he allegedly has sources in all branches of the Russian government. Since 2021, he says that Putin goes to shamans, performs rituals with the killing of eagles and has cancer. The Telegram channel General SVR connected with Solovei claims that Putin drinks the blood of dogs. Some of Soloveiʼs predictions came true. For example, the one about personnel changes in the administration of the President of Russia. Because of this, he became a regular guest of Russian and Ukrainian media. Solovei is a permanent expert of the large YouTube channels Seichas [Now] and Fabryka Novyn [News Factory]. He was interviewed by journalists Nataliia Moseichuk and Dmytro Gordon. In 2018, Solovei was quoted by Ivan Yakovyna, a journalist of the Russian News Agency as "one of the best Russian political analysts". And the media continue to make news from the General SVR channel. Gordonʼs last three interviews with Solovei alone have gathered almost six million views. The editor of Babel Yuliana Skibitska researched the biography and statements of Solovei, talked to him himself and tells how he became so famous and whether he is really an expert. Moreover, why Ukrainian intelligence is sure that the Russianʼs forecasts play into the hands of the Kremlin.

Nationalist and liberal

Valerii Solovei is 63 years old. He was born in Shchastya in the Luhansk region, lived with his parents in the Ivano-Frankivsk region for a while, and later moved to Moscow. Solovei graduated from Moscow State University (MSU), and in 1987 became a candidate of historical sciences. In 2007, he began working as a professor and head of the department of advertising and public relations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MSIIR). This university trains Russian diplomats.

Solovei became known to the Russian public around then. Russian journalist and propaganda researcher Ilya Shepelin told Babel that in the USSR Solovei gathered so-called intellectual nationalists around him. In 2008, the professor published the book "Blood and Soil of Russian History", which, according to Shepelin, was "filled with pathetic and meaningless phrases about the Russian vision of the world." Solovei was also the scientific supervisor of one of the main Russian nationalists Volodymyr Tor.

Valerii Solovei in Moscow State University, 2009.

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In 2011, a series of opposition rallies, the largest in modern Russian history, began in the Russian Federation, which were then collectively called "Protests on Bolotnaya". The reason was massive falsifications in the parliamentary elections, which led to the victory of Putinʼs United Russia party. At that time, not only liberals, but also Russian nationalists organized rallies. Shepelin says that they were organized by Solovei from the nationalists, who always remained in the shadows and did not publicly advertise his involvement. In 2020, Russian oppositionist Daniil Konstantinov said that in 2011, he had a lot of conversations with Solovei about rallies. Konstantinov himself organized nationalist marches at the time.

In the same year, according to Konstantinov, Solovei offered him to urgently hold an unauthorized rally near the Kremlin. Konstantinov decided that this was a provocation intended to compromise the protest movement, and refused. After that, the professor promised that he might have problems, because Solovei is highly connected (with the presidential administration). Konstantinov really started to have problems. In March 2012, he was arrested and charged with murder.

Detention of Daniil Konstantinov, 2012.

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"Konstantinov had an alibi — he was at his motherʼs birthday. But he was still imprisoned for eight years. He directly connects it with the threats of Solovei," says Ilya Shepelin.

In his commentary to Babel, Solovei claims that he was mostly a participant in rallies, not an organizer.

"The only case was in 2012. Then I held a rally near the ʼUlitsa 1905 godaʼ metro station, and that was the only time I acted as an organizer," Solovei says.

As for Konstantinov, Solovei says that he saw him only a few times in his life, and it was always in the presence of other people. There were no proposals to hold a rally near the Kremlin or threats, the professor claims.

In 2012, Solovei founded the Nova Syla [New Power] party. In an article he published on the Russian Platform website, Solovei explained that Russia needs a nationalist party that will protect the interests of ethnic Russians, but will also be able to attract a liberal audience.

"The persuasiveness of any political message depends critically on the credibility of the people who deliver it. Russian nationalism has a real problem with this. The only politician known outside of nationalism is Dmitriy Rogozin. However, his personal message will most likely be deliberately limited and will be addressed to the traditional nationalist electorate," Solovei wrote at the time.

In 2013, the Russian Ministry of Justice refused to register the Nova Syla party. In 2016, Solovei said in an interview that the party was not functioning because its members were "threatened with repression." But at that moment Solovei himself cooled to nationalist ideas. He began to cooperate with the Party of Growth, which positioned itself as liberal and right-centered. Solovei explains: he always understood that nationalist movements in Russia have no prospects.

In 2016, the Party of Growth ran for the State Duma, but won only 1.2% of the vote and did not pass. In 2018, Boris Titov, the party leader and part-time business ombudsman under the administration of the President of Russia, went to the presidential elections. Solovei joined his campaign staff as a political technologist responsible for the ideology of the upcoming campaign. In the elections, Titov did not gain even one percent.

Boris Titov.

"It is unlikely that it [working in Titovʼs campaign headquarters] indicates any special connection with the Kremlin. In Russia, there are not many opportunities for a political technologist to earn money. Therefore, for a long time, elections were almost the only such option," explains Ilya Shepelin.

Solovei himself says that he did not hold any high positions in Titovʼs team, but he helped formulate an ideological message to the voters. After the elections, they stopped cooperation "by mutual agreement".

The path of a political analyst

After the Russian Ministry of Justice refused to register Nova Syla, Solovei focused on a career as a public political scientist. In 2014, he commented on the liberation of Slovyansk by the Ukrainian army to the Russian YouTube channel NevexTV. He called the fighters of the self-proclaimed "DPR" as"rebels". Solovei began to publish recordings of his lectures at the Moscow State University on his own YouTube channel. There he talked about power, politics and manipulation. Solovei began to be invited to the broadcasts of liberal and oppositional channels to the Russian government. In 2015, he published the book "Absolute Weapon", in which he analyzed the methods of Russian propaganda.

On August 1, 2016, Solovei wrote on Facebook that the administration of President (AP) Putin would be headed by Anton Vaino (at that time the deputy head of the AP Serhiy Ivanov. Vaino is still one of the most closed and non-public Russian officials, and in August 2016, only few people knew about him at all. On August 12, Vaino was actually appointed the head of the AP, and he still remains in the post. Another insiderʼs information from Solovei was confirmed — he said that another deputy head of the AP Vyacheslav Volodin would be appointed speaker of the State Duma. And so it happened. Such an accurate and unexpected forecast immediately transferred Solovei to the status of a person who, perhaps, really has insider information from the Kremlin.

During that period, Ukrainian media also began to invite Solovei. He was often interviewed — in particular, by Livyi Bereh and Hromadske. He said, for example, that at the turn of 2014-2015, Ukraine and Russia held informal talks about the conditions under which Ukraine could renounce its claims to the occupied Crimea. Solovei did not specify where he got this information from.

The main topic that Solovei constantly talked about was the health of Vladimir Putin and the change of power in Russia. Back in 2016, he said that early presidential elections would likely be held in Russia, and Putin would not be able to run for office due to "force majeure." Therefore, he will prepare a successor, who, according to Solovei, could be Putinʼs former bodyguard. Itʼs about the governor of the Tula region Oleksiy Dyumin. None of these predictions came true: Putin won 77% of the vote in the elections, and Dyumin still remains the head of the Tula region.

Putin at the Tula Suvorov School. Dyumin stands behind.

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“His phenomenon is the way he presents information. He can say 80% of the right things, argue academically — about propaganda, manipulation, about the mood in Russia. He gives the impression of an intelligent person, which is why many believed that maybe he really knows something about what is happening in the Kremlin," explains Ilya Shepelin.

All this time, Solovei continued to work in the Moscow State Military Academy, which was also a paradox. For example, Andriy Zubov (a teacher who taught, in particular, Sergei Lavrov) was dismissed from the university in 2014. Zubov condemned the annexation of Crimea. But Solovei was not touched for a long time, he left the Moscow State University only in 2019. On his YouTube channel, he continued to allude to the Russian presidentʼs terminal illness.

"Solovei understood how YouTubeʼs algorithms work and began to use them to his advantage. In any interview with him, you could insert something about the death of Putin or his successor into the headline, and it would get millions of views. The media got hooked on this," says Schepelin.

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In a conversation with Babel, Solovei convinces: he was not fired from the Moscow State Military Academy for a long time, because there were no formal grounds for this. According to the professor, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Aleksandr Khloponin demanded his release twice. However, in 2019, the situation worsened, and the management of the university fired Solovei, because they were pressured by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Solovei says that he does not give predictions, but shares his insides. And he claims that he did not say that Putin will definitely not go to the elections. He simply explained that such a probability exists due to the poor health of the Russian president.

"Iʼm not responsible for media headlines," he says.

General SVR

On September 27, 2020, the anonymous channel General SVR appeared in Telegram. According to legend, it is run by a former employee of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service who calls himself Viktor Mykhailovych. In the second post, the channel recommended watching Soloveiʼs interview with Dmytro Gordon (6.2 million views), which was released on September 22, 2020. And Solovei advised to read General SVR in his Telegram channel.

In October 2020, General SVR told what nicknames Putin gives to his subordinates. He allegedly calls State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin a "holubets" ["pigeon"] and Dmytro Medvedev a "funtik" ["pounder"]. Then he said that the FSB recruited the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak back in 2019. And also he said that Putin has not appeared in public for a long time, and instead a stand-in appears in his place. There were allegedly two such understudies until 2019 — then one of them died, and it was necessary to urgently look for a replacement.

In 2021, General SVR started a channel on YouTube. In the video, the author does not show his face, but changes his voice with the help of artificial intelligence. Solovei also invited the "general" to his broadcasts. He said that he could not reveal his real name, but vouched for the reality of this person and his sources.

General SVR left in the description of the channel the details of the Webmoney wallet, to which he was going to donate. It turned out that the wallet belongs to a Ukrainian lawyer from Kharkiv Viktor Yermolayev. In a comment to Meduza on February 16, 2022, Yermolaev stated that he had no relation to General SVR or Valerii Solovei. Now these details are not in the channel description.

"General SVR is an opportunity for Solovei to legalize his insiders and sources. Obviously, this is his project, even if it is joint creativity," says Ilya Shepelin.

Solovei claims that he does not know Viktor Yermolayev, and that he has nothing to do with the General SVR channel. He says the channel is run by a group of people he knows. The professor himself only helped the channel to develop.

Both Solovei and General SVR continue to say that Putin will soon disappear from politics. Solovei assures that Putin has cancer, and General SVR — that he has Parkinsonʼs disease.

Permanent experts of the Ukrainian media

Since February 24, 2022, Solovei and General SVR have become regular experts and a source of "insider" about the war for Ukrainian and Western media.

Since April 2022, the tabloids The Sun and Daily Star wrote that Putin was terminally ill. All this information was from General SVR. General SVR became the main source for New Lines Magazine, which analyzed whether Putin could really be ill. Information from the head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence (also known as GUR) Kyrylo Budanov, that Putin really has cancer, added credence to Soloveiʼs words.

In 2022, Solovei regularly appeared on the streams of former Russian lawyer Mark Feigin. Fragments of these videos were published by TSN on its channel. For example, about the fact that Putin has already decided to launch a nuclear attack on Ukraine (October 8, 2022, 233 thousand views). In July 2022, Nataliia Moseychuk interviewed Solovei (176 000 views). After the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin on August 23, 2023, Solovei said that the former head of the PMC "Wagner" had staged his death and was hiding in Venezuela. Western publications Newsweek and The Independent, Ukrainian websites Dialog.Ua and Focus wrote about it.

In an interview with UNIAN in November 2022, Solovei said, among other things, that Putin did not go to the G-20 summit because he was afraid of being slapped by one of the participants. Allegedly, the presidentʼs security advised him not to go.

Solovei is also a regular guest of Dmitry Gordon and the YouTube channel News Factory. Since the beginning of the Great War, Gordonʼs channel has aired three interviews with Solovei. In total, they have garnered almost six million views.

News Factory is the new name of the Ukraine 24 YouTube channel. The owner is Rostyslav Bunyak, who worked for the newspaper Today, and later became the head of the digital department of the Ukraine News Group. Solovei comments on almost everything for the channel — from Putinʼs occultism to the Kremlinʼs military plans. The most popular videos get up to a million views.

Death of Putin

At the end of October 2023, General SVR wrote that Putin is dead, his body is in a freezer, and the duties of the president are performed by a double. On the same day, this information was "confirmed" by Valerii Solovei. In about a week, the representative of the State Government Andriy Yusov said that all reports about Putinʼs death were rumors.

Almost all Ukrainian media wrote about this, while some clarified why the information of General SVR and Solovei should not be trusted. But sometimes it looked absurd. For example, in November 2023, Channel 24 wrote why you should not trust Solovei and General SVR. At the same time, a regular column continues to appear on YouTube of Channel 24, where General SVR discusses events in Ukraine and the world.

Some media continue to use Valerii Solovei as an expert, and General SVR as a news source. For example, the UNIAN site, which constantly posts information from General SVR about Putinʼs health. Or the Dialog.Ua site, which in January 2024 gave a forecast from Solovei that the war would probably end by the end of the year. The interview with Solovei, already after his statements about Putinʼs death, was broadcast on the Pryamiy channel and received almost 800 000 views.

According to Ukrainian intelligence, rumors about the death of Putin are being spread specifically to test the publicʼs reaction. Thus, says Andriy Yusov, the special services are testing how they can manage the country under various scenarios. The Wall Street Journal also writes that such rumors play into Putinʼs hands.

"If one day there really is a coup in Russia, people will have doubts that it is real," the publication notes.

On February 16, 2022, the Investigative Committee of Russia came to Valerii Solovei with a search. He was questioned as a witness in the case of incitement to hatred, which, according to Russian media, was connected to the General SVR channel. Meduza, referring to sources in the administration of the Russian president, wrote that Solovei could be summoned for questioning, because in his stream "he insulted someone from the influential security forces."

Detention of Valerii Solovei.


Usually, such a suspicion in Russia automatically means a prison term. But Solovei was immediately released. As Meduza wrote, the Kremlin allegedly has no complaints against Solovei. He is useful for the Russian authorities, because he gathers conspiracists around him.

Solovei calls such accusations absurd: "Any rumors of this kind [about Putinʼs death], on the contrary, undermine the legitimacy of the regime. Anyone who says otherwise doesnʼt understand anything about politics." The case of incitement to hatred, says the professor, is still open, and he is a witness in it. He was no longer at the interrogations after February 16, but he cannot disclose other details due to the secrecy of the investigation.

Solovei continues to live in Moscow. He does not back down from his words that Putin is dead and calls it a fact. He also conducts paid online broadcasts every month.

"Last time, at a closed lecture, he accepted questions from the audience. The girl bought a ticket to ask when those mobilized from the front would be released, she has a husband there. For many, he became like Kashpirovsky, who is the only one who knows the answers to questions." told Ilya Shepelin.

Babel does not know the answers to all questions, because we are not Solovei and not Kashpirovsky. But thatʼs why you love us! Support our work: 🔸 in hryvnia , 🔸 Buy Me a Coffee , 🔸 Patreon , 🔸 PayPal: [email protected].