Wide-eyed Putin confronted with an AI deep fake of himself in live Q&A

December 14, 2023

Putin AI

Russian President Vladimir Putin was confronted with a question from an AI-generated deep fake version of himself during a live Q&A session with the public. 

This incident occurred during Putin’s annual phone-in show, which also doubles as his end-of-year news conference, a hotly anticipated and meticulously managed event allowing Russian citizens to directly engage with their president. 

The AI, posing as a student from St Petersburg Institute, asked Putin a two-part question, as translated: “Mr. President, good afternoon, I am a student studying at St Petersburg Institute. Do you have a lot of twins? And another point, what is your attitude towards the dangers with neural networks and artificial intelligence?” 

The question sparked laughter among the audience and a pause from Putin, who maintained a wide-eyed yet severe demeanor.

In response, Putin said, “I see you may resemble me and speak with my voice. But I have thought about it and decided that only one person must be like me and speak with my voice, and that will be me.” 

Deep fake technology is being employed to disseminate false information by replicating the appearance or voices of political figures and celebrities. Numerous political leaders and public figures have been targeted, from Elon Musk to Tom Hanks

In many cases, these AI copies are used to perpetrate fraud, as was when Elon Musk was depicted backing a financial scam involving UK media personality Martin Lewis. 

Deep fakes have shown their ugliest side throughout the Israel-Palestine conflict, where they’ve been used to stir allegations of horrific torture and human rights abuses. 

Putin recently spoke about Russia’s AI industry, highlighting that the country must create its own powerful AI models to fuel the economy and defend Russia’s cultural legacy. 

He said, “An algorithm, for example, can indicate to a machine that Russia, our culture, science, music, literature, simply do not exist.”

Putin body double allegations

In October, the Kremlin categorically denied rumors about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s health, particularly dismissing claims of a heart attack and the use of body doubles for public appearances. 

This statement was issued following an unsourced report circulated by a Russian Telegram channel and subsequently picked up by some Western media, suggesting that Putin had experienced a serious illness.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, firmly stated, “Everything is fine with him, this is absolutely another fake.” He further addressed the persistent rumors about Putin using body doubles, describing these as part of “absurd information hoaxes” and mentioning that such claims provoke nothing but amusement among most Russians.

In a 2020 interview, Putin himself negated long-standing speculations about employing body doubles. 

He acknowledged that the idea had been proposed to him in the past for security reasons, but he had never utilized it.

The CIA also weighed in on the matter last year, countering speculations about Putin’s declining health. 

CIA Director William Burns remarked that there was no intelligence to suggest Putin was unwell despite his occasionally unsteady public appearances since the start of the war.

Burns explicitly stated, “As far as we can tell, he’s entirely too healthy.”

However, with AI, Putin might have body doubles that even he himself cannot control.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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