Vladimir Putin in Astana Kazakhstan
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Commonwealth of the Independent States summit in Astana, Kazakhstan on October 14, 2022.Contributor/Getty Images
  • Many juicy stories about Putin can be found on the Telegram account.

  • Rumors of serious health issues and a claim that he pooped himself are some of the things that have been said about him.

  • The account does more harm than good according to experts.

In early December, a sensational story ripped through the tabloid press: President Putin stumbled and fell down the stairs involuntarily.

It was an irresistible tale for a Western audience that was horrified by the invasion of Ukraine.

The claims were covered by a number of publications. They attributed them to a Telegram account.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the wild media environment has boomed.

Videos and claims reach vast audiences with little evidence or context. It spills over into the media.

The General SVR claimed to be run by former and current members of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

The account's sources were not identified in the statement, but it said it has complete confidence in them.

The person said that they have never let down the people.

The account has churned out a steady stream of intriguing claims about the inner workings of the Kremlin and Putin's health.

In May, they said that Putin would temporarily hand over power in order to have cancer surgery, and in September they said that he had a coughing fit.

The Kremlin told Newsweek that the most recent claim was not true.

The Kremlin's claims are not reliable. The fact that the epicenter of Russian power was forced to assure the world that Putin didn't poop is a testament to the power of General SVR.

Some people used to more rigorous documenting of Russia's secrets have a hard time with it.

In May, Aric Toler told his followers to ignore everything that came from his account.

Insider was told by experts on Russian media that General SVR isn't likely to be a credible source, and that it is doing more harm than good.

Who is General SVR?

Nobody knows for sure who is behind the account, but two different theories have been thrown around.

The Russian news outlet Meduza reported that Valery Solovey, a Russian academic who is sometimes described as a conspiracy theorist, was raided by Russian authorities in February.

The rumors about Putin being ready to step down by January 2021, which were reported in The Sun in 2020, are a source of rumors. The fact that Putin did not step down is known.

According to Meduza, he was named as a witness in an investigation into the General SVR, which was accused of breaking Russian hate-speech laws.

The General SVR channel denied any connection to Solovey after he questioned them.

He told Insider that he is not connected to the channel but that it has high reliability and that even Putin gets briefed on its contents.

He didn't say if he would name any of the figures behind the account.

The claims that he is a conspiracy theorist were pointed out by him.

According to Meduza, the second figure in the account is a Ukranian lawyer. He denied the claim to Meduza saying that he has no contact with anyone in Russia.

A researcher specializing in Russian media and politics told Insider that it wouldn't be difficult to see what the strategic goal was for a Ukrainian running the account.

There is not much more to say.

Selling a cartoon Putin

In the context of how Telegram is used in Russia, the wild world of General SVR should be understood.

Insider's John Haltiwanger has reported that Russia's traditional media landscape has tightened, forcing many independent outlets to relocate outside of Russia.

Telegram was created in tandem with that process and allows anonymous publication to a large audience. The app was blocked by the Kremlin.

Telegram was initially thought of as a place for authentic voices, but soon became a place for impersonations and information ops.

The military uses info ops to spread information to hurt an enemy or influence a conflict.

There are dozens of active, well-read channels, both pro- and anti-Putin, but General SVR cuts through to Western media because it is punchy.

Oversimplifying the situation is one of the problems for her.

She said that constant headlines painting Putin as being on the verge of death with no real evidence backing it up can lead western readers to think "'great, well Putin's going to be gone soon, so we needn't worry too much'."

The US and the UK are considering whether to continue military aid to Ukraine.

The man agreed. She told Insider that the image of Russia sells. Even if the story is negative, it still centers on Russia as a world power, she said.

The phenomenon shows more about what Western consumers want to read than it does about Russia.

There is a huge information vacuum around Russia's elite.

She said that there are things going on behind the scenes. It is tempting to follow someone who has all the answers.

Business Insider has an article on it.