A new contender has emerged in the online rumor-sphere for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s possible successor.
This time, the supposed substitute is Dmitry Kovalev, a 36-year-old member of the Presidential Administration.
The factual basis beneath the rumor is thin: A young man, identified as Kovalev by the Telegram channel BAZA, was seen on TV talking with Putin after Monday’s Victory Day parade.
For a leader known to keep his distance from everyone, a mere close conversation seems enough to spark successor speculation.
With the Russian strongman’s health reportedly declining, the young Kovalev is only the latest rumored heir apparent.
A far more likely candidate — Nikolai Patrushev, 70, head of Putin’s security council — was floated last week, amid swirling rumors that Putin was slated for surgery.
The Kremlin has roundly denied that Putin is suffering from any chronic health issues.
An investigative report last month in the independent Russian outlet The Project claimed Putin was fighting thyroid cancer — and has been seen by an oncologist 35 times in recent years.
Putin has become so paranoid about his health, the outlet claimed, he has even turned to unconventional, and barbaric, therapies.
Putin is said to bathe in the blood extracted from deer antlers, which are hacked off while they are growing and still full of fresh blood, the outlet said. The sickening “antler baths” are an alternative therapy in the Altai region of Russia, which borders Khazakstan and Mongolia.
Believers say the baths improve the cardiovascular system and rejuvenate the skin, The Project explained.