Vladimir Putin’s alleged secret gymnast partner has not been seen in public since rumours emerged of the Kremlin leader’s death.

Some Russian sources have claimed that Putin has actually died and been replaced by a body double controlled by senior Russian officials. They claim that he is now a mouthpiece of security henchmen and senior apparatchiks but such claims are seen by almost all analysts as a wild conspiracy theory.

But supporters claim that Olympic champion Alina Kabaeva, a woman who is claimed to be the mother of two or three of Putin’s children, and his secret lover, also hasn’t been seen since late October. This is said to be around the date Putin supposedly suffered a heart attack and she has not re-emerged since.

Earlier in October she was highly visible in footage from her Alina Kabaeva Sky Grace Rhythmic Gymnastics Academy in Sochi – an elite training base for future sports stars. But she was last seen on October 22, at the Games of Countries tournament held at her academy. She was wearing a white jacket and cut a cake to mark the end of the competition.

She was accompanied by her mentor Irina Viner, Russia ’s top rhythmic gymnastics coach and ex-wife of pro-Kremlin oligarch Alisher Usmanov. Kabaeva is not believed to have been seen since, although she has previously had long absences from public view. This was the same day that Telegram channel General SVR claimed Putin had suffered cardiac arrest.

Two days after Putin’s alleged death a message is posted in her name marking All-Russian Gymnastics Day with a eulogy to coaches – but she is not seen in any video or contemporaneous picture. A rhythmic gymnastics tournament was advertised in Uzbekistan from 9-13 November, but Kabaeva was seemingly not in attendance.

The same Telegram channel, which has made a number of astounding claims around Putin and the powerful in Russia, said the secretary of the security council Nikolai Patrushev, 72, was now in charge. The elite are allegedly discussing whether to run the doppelgänger in next year’s presidential election, it is claimed. The double is being coached in what to say, and how to behave, at meetings where he poses as Putin.

Patrushev wants to see a long term replacement put in place, possibly his son, Dmitry, 46, currently agriculture minister. Patrushev “is trying to convince the elites who have rallied around him that a successor is needed and as soon as possible,” said the channel. It added: “So far, not everyone shares Patrushev’s pessimism regarding the prospects for using a double. But, be that as it may, a decision must be made soon.”

Kabaeva is seen as having been Putin’s girlfriend since 2008 – when he was still married to former Russian first lady Lyudmila Putina – three years after he gave her a major award at the Kremlin. Some accounts suggest they were secretly married, and she has often been seen wearing a wedding ring. The Kremlin has always denied a relationship. She is known to have given birth in Switzerland in 2015, and in Moscow in 2019.

Until the start of the war, she regularly used a Swiss mansion overlooking Lake Geneva. Dictator Putin has insisted: “I have a private life in which I do not permit interference. It must be respected.”

He deplored “those who with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies prowl into others’ lives”. Kabaeva is on record as saying she had met an unnamed man who “I love very much”, gushing: “Sometimes you feel so happy that you even feel scared.”