Former spy Serguei Jirnov knows almost everything about Putin and Russia, the Ukrainian media are convinced. And Jirnov tells that Putin is a gay man who doesnʼt decide anything in the Kremlin. How come heʼs an “expert”?

Yuliana Skibitska
Dmytro Rayevskyi
Former spy Serguei Jirnov knows almost everything about Putin and Russia, the Ukrainian media are convinced. And Jirnov tells that Putin is a gay man who doesnʼt decide anything in the Kremlin. How come heʼs an “expert”? / «Бабель»

Serguei Jirnov is Russian, born in Moscow in 1961. According to his own words, he is a former Soviet spy and an employee of the KGB. And also, and this is also known only from Jirnovʼs words, during the 1980 Olympics in Moscow he was personally interrogated by Putin. Jirnov allegedly saw him four times throughout his life. This was enough for Western, Russian and Ukrainian media to make Jirnov one of the main experts on the Kremlin and Putin personally. In fact, Jirnov doesnʼt know Putinʼs Russia first hand — he left the country in 2001 and has been living in France since then. However, he is regularly invited to broadcasts and interviewed. Thanks to Jirnovʼs sensational and often unexpected statements, as well as to the catchy titles by journalists and bloggers, videos with him gain millions of views on YouTube. For example, "This will not be shown in the Russian Federation! Erdogan slapped Putin. Grandfather was bent" (UNIAN YouTube channel, 290,000 views) or "EX-KGB SPY JIRNOV: Putin slept with women ONLY FOR MONEY, the KGB LEARNED about his relationship with A MALE LOVER" (Pryamiy YouTube channel, 1.3 million views). Also, Jirnov often appears on the air of Ukrainian TV channels and on Ukrainian websites. He comments on the news almost every week on Channel 24 (6.43 million subscribers), UNIAN (3.39 million subscribers) and News Factory (3.7 million subscribers). Babel analyzed Jirnovʼs biography and public appearances and explains why his expertise cannot withstand criticism.

Serguei Jirnov is 63 years old. His biography is known mainly from his words. Born in Moscow, he graduated from school there, in 1978 he entered the Faculty of International Economic Relations at Moscow State University and graduated in 1983. In his blog on, Jirnov published photos of his diploma and an appendix with grades. At the institute, he studied French, in 1980, according to Jirnov, he was invited to work during the Olympic Games in Moscow as an assistant on telephone help desk for foreigners. At the same time, he claims, he was interrogated by Putin — at that time an employee of the KGB in Leningrad. The reason for the questioning was apparently Jirnovʼs two-hour conversation with the Frenchman who called the line.

Diploma of graduation from Moscow State University.

Diploma of graduation from Moscow State University. / «Бабель»

During a conversation with Putin, Jirnov asked him why he was interrogating him just like an investigator from a book that was banned at the time. In an interview with Mark Feygin in 2021, Jirnov said that he meant the investigator from Anatoliy Rybakovʼs book "Children of the Arbat". But in 2022, in an interview with Channel 24, Jirnov said that this referred to Alexandr Solzhenitsynʼs “The Gulag Archipelago” book. When Putin asked how he knew about the book, Jirnov replied that Leonid Brezhnevʼs grandson Andrey gave it to him to read. After that, the interrogation ended.

In his third year, Jirnov was recruited by the KGB. In 1983, he graduated from Moscow State University and entered the Red Banner Institute of the KGB named after Yuriy Andropov. In Jirnovʼs blog on, there is a photo of a diploma on graduation from the Moscow State University, but for some reason — with clearly photoshopped information that he completed the course of the Red Banner Institute. Jirnov also said that in the late 1990s, he sued the Foreign Intelligence Service to issue him a diploma and a spy certificate.

In 1983, Vladimir Putin also entered the KGB institute. Though, Jirnov says that he studied on a three-year course, and Putin — on a one-year course. They crossed paths several more times at the institute, Jirnov said, and Putin allegedly recognized him. In 1984, after graduating from the Institute, Putin, according to Jirnov, wasnʼt allowed to serve in Moscow, but was sent back to Leningrad with the note that he wasnʼt suitable for intelligence service.

Young Serguei Jirnov.
Serguei Jirnov (left) with Soviet intelligence officer Yuriy Drozdov.

Young Serguei Jirnov. Serguei Jirnov (left) with Soviet intelligence officer Yuriy Drozdov. / «Бабель»

Until 1992, Jirnov worked in the KGB. In the scanned copy of Jirnovʼs card, a member of the CPSU, it is indicated that from 1984 to 1987 he was a "candidate" in military unit No. 54282, and from 1987 — an employee of this unit. The First Directorate of the KGB of the USSR, which was responsible for foreign intelligence, was actually encrypted with this number. Jirnovʼs employment book also states that he was an employee of the KGB. Jirnov published his certificate of a KGB employee, dated 1990 — it was issued to senior lieutenant Serguei Jirnov, another certificate of the same year — for the rank of captain. In 1992, Jirnov retired to the reserve, as he said, already in the rank of major. During his service in the KGB, he performed various tasks abroad.

After the collapse of the USSR, Jirnov published articles and opinion pieces. For a critical article in 2000 about the Foreign Intelligence Academy, Jirnov says, a criminal case was opened against him for disclosing a state secret, but later it was closed. The article itself is a historical essay with Jirnovʼs evaluative judgments. He also worked in various consulting firms, and in 2001 he emigrated to France due to public criticism of Putin and opposition activities. Later, he received political asylum there, although he remained a Russian citizen. In exile, Jirnov wrote books about his work in the KGB, sometimes appeared on French television, where he talked about his espionage work. Jirnov lived in Putinʼs Russia for a year.

Popularity came to Jirnov in 2018, after the failed attempt by the Kremlin to poison Sergei Skripal. In March of that year, Jirnov wrote in his LiveJournal profile and on social networks that he doesnʼt plan to commit suicide, and asked if he was suddenly found dead, to conduct an investigation into the involvement of the Russian special services. Since then, Russian and Western media began to invite him for the interviews. Everywhere he spoke from the position of a former spy who understands the Russian special services and is personally acquainted with Vladimir Putin. For example, in an interview with Radio Svoboda in 2018, Jirnov said that the Russian special services are a "mess".

In 2018, the Swiss media discovered that an extensive network of Russian spies was operating in the country. This provoked a diplomatic scandal between the countries. The following year, in an interview with a Swiss newspaper, Jirnov said that the network of spies continues to work. He didnʼt provide any evidence.

With the start of a full-scale invasion in 2022, Jirnov became a regular expert in the Ukrainian media. He regularly appears on the broadcasts of the large YouTube channels "News Factory" and "Now" (1.6 million subscribers), on the state channel Freedom (1.07 million subscribers), "Pryamyi" (3.76 million subscribers) and Dmytro Gordon (3.84 million followers). Populat TV and YouTube host Natalya Moseichuk interviewed Jirnov twice — videos received 800,000 views in total. Jirnov talks a lot about Russian politics, analyzes the situation in the world and at the front. He also conducts a regular column on YouTube channel of the Ukrainian Channel 24, where together with the alleged author of the Telegram channel "General SVR" he discusses international politics. "General SVR" is associated with the Russian political scientist Valery Soloviev. Both of them are known for their outrageous statements, which they make as insiders of the Kremlin — that Putin has an incurable disease, he goes to shamans and drinks dogʼs blood. The last hyped "inside info" by Solovei and "General SVR" is that Putin allegedly died in October of last year, and his duties are performed by a dopplehanger. Ukrainian intelligence said that such rumors benefit the Kremlin. Jirnov himself, characterizing the "General SVR", says that this person definitely has high-profile sources in the Kremlin.

Over time, Jirnovʼs statements and forecasts become more and more sensational (and unconfirmed). For example, he says that Putin and Dmitry Medvedev are gay. For example, when Putin worked in the KGB, he had a same-sex relationship with his friend, cellist Sergei Roldugin. Jirnov also claims that Putin uses dopplehangers — they hold meetings with people instead of him.

In February 2023, Jirnov said that Putin was "fed up with everyone in the Kremlin" and that Russian elites "want to piss the president off." Therefore, he had only one option left — to withdraw the troops from Ukraine or shorten his life. In May of the same year, Jirnov repeated these forecasts. A year later, it is clear that Putin still has no plans to either withdraw his troops or die.

After the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, Jirnov said on the Freedom channel that the head of “Wagnerʼs PMC” was killed immediately after the failed riot, and then his body was thrown on a plane to legalize his death. And in February of this year, on the air of UNIAN YouTube channel, Jirnov said that Kremlin officials conducted occult rituals with Leninʼs corpse in the Mausoleum.

Jirnov is building his career on the fact that he supposedly understands Putinʼs logic well. He claims to have met him four times. In an interview with Channel 24, Jirnov, for example, told a story about Putin from the book "First-person dialogues". For example, Putin brought his "homosexual friend" to a judo class, he broke his spine, and Putin "screamed furiously and rolled on the tatami." This fragment doesnʼt exist in the book. As well as the clarification that the friend was "homosexual" — this was added by Jirnov himself, clarifying that the book does not talk about a homosexual friend, but "everyone understands everything."

Another feature of Jirnov: his analytics is mostly publicly available information from open sources. For example, his latest analysis of the upcoming elections boils down to the fact that Putin relies on the military, and he himself has accumulated many problems.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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