This year, Putin gave his New Year’s speech surrounded by soldiers. But Twitter users were taken aback and recognize some faces from past propaganda videos. Above all, one woman always appears – in completely different roles.

In recent years, Vladimir Putin has traditionally given his New Year’s speech in the Kremlin. But this year, the Russian president showed up at a military headquarters. About 20 soldiers posed behind him, looking stoically at the camera. Meanwhile, in the speech, Putin claimed that Russia was forced by the West to “give up everything, or fight.”

After his speech, Putin presented a number of medals, including to a blonde woman previously seen right next to him. In the video, she then explains that wounded Russian soldiers would not want to be taken from the battlefield. They would rather continue to fight alongside their comrades.

Now there is speculation online that the woman might not be a soldier at all, but an actress or even a politician.

The actors in the video were examined more closely, especially on Twitter. Users noticed that the alleged soldier had often been seen next to Putin, but in completely different roles. Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Giczan wrote on Twitter: “A soldier, a sailor, a devout Christian. God’s ways are inscrutable.”

In addition to his accusation, Giczan shared pictures of the blonde woman. Once as a sailor in an orange protective suit next to Putin and ex-President Medvedev on the high seas, including a picture in which she was seen wearing a headscarf at Putin’s Easter speech.

Some users recognize Sergukhina Larisa Borisovna in the woman. The 57-year-old is a member of the United Russia party, which supports President Putin’s course. Borisnova works as a deputy in Novgerod, where he is responsible for overseeing legislation.

But it’s not just the blonde woman’s face that looks familiar to many observers. Some Twitter users also think they know male soldiers from previous appearances by the President. In a tweet, racing driver and Kremlin critic Igor Sushko recalled an injured soldier who was visited by Putin and later turned up as a worker in a factory.

“In case you’re wondering how Putin can risk being around so many ordinary Russians, he never is,” writes Sushko. He and many other Twitter users believe Putin is “too paranoid” to actually meet with Russian citizens. They suspect that he is afraid of an attack. Instead, Putin would hire confidants from his environment for the propaganda videos.

The co-awardee of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, Oleksandra Matviichuk, also reacted to the incident. The lawyer and human rights activist wrote on Twitter: “Putin wanted to imitate Zelenskyy, who was visiting the Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut. But after ten months of war in Russia even actors are in short supply.”