Speculation and mockery abounded on social media after an eagle-eyed journalist spotted what appeared to be the same woman playing different roles in photos with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The oddity was first highlighted on Twitter Saturday morning by London-based Belarussian journalist, Tadeusz Giczan. In his post, Giczan shared three photos of Putin standing among various different crowds which included a line-up of soldiers, sailors on a boat, and worshippers attending some sort of religious service.
In each image, it appears that the same blonde woman is present—often at the forefront of the image—giving the impression that she is being used by Russian officials to fill out Putin’s various photo-ops.
“A soldier, a sailor, a devout Christian. God moves in a mysterious way,” Giczan tweeted with a dryly tongue-in-cheek tone.
CNN’s correspondent Clarissa Ward responded to Giczan’s tweets, raising questions about the woman’s identity and her precise role. The journalist wondered if she is simply an actor being used to fill out photos or if she has another reason to be in close proximity to Putin in different situations. She also noted other figures who appear in at least two of the photos, but do not stand out as much as the woman.
“This is fascinating,” Ward wrote in her response. “Who is she? A bodyguard? An actor? There are several other faces who appear in both photos on the right.”
In his own response, Kyiv Post correspondent Jason Jay Smart gave further context to the various photos, noting that the image with the line-up of “soldiers” was from Putin’s New Year’s Eve address and that the photo with the worshippers was from his Easter address earlier in the year. Echoing Ward’s post, he also referred to the woman as an “actor,” and also claimed that she and the others were most likely rounded up from Putin’s security detail.
“As one would expect: Putin’s New Year’s Eve address did not even use real soldier, but actors (that is – people rounded-up from the Presidential Protection Office),” Smart wrote. “The blonde woman can also be seen in his Easter address. He’s as fake as the value of the Ruble.”
Andriy P. Zagorodnyuk, the former Ukrainian Minister of Defense, responded to Smart’s tweet, arguing that the alleged charade was not surprising.
Putin’s New Year’s Eve address on Saturday came over ten months into Russia’s beleaguered and prolonged invasion of Ukraine, which had originally been planned as a swift operation. In his speech, Putin called the conflict a “sacred duty to ancestors and descendants” and called it a fight for Russia’s sovereignty.
“We have always known, and today we are again convinced that the sovereign, independent, secure future of Russia depends only on us, on our strength and will,” the Russian leader said.
Newsweek reached out to Russian officials for comment.