A REMARKABLE photograph purportedly showing a “young Vladimir Putin” spying on US President Ronald Reagan in 1988 has resurfaced online.
The incredible image was shared on Instagram by Pete Souza, a photographer who worked at the White House under the Reagan and Obama administrations.
It was taken during Reagan’s visit to Moscow in 1988 and appears to show a young Putin posing as a tourist to get close to the US leader.
Writing alongside the striking image, Souza detailed the story behind it and the reasons that have led him to believe the man pictured is, indeed, Putin.
“In 1988, I photographed President Reagan during his visit to Moscow,” he begins.
“Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the then Soviet Union, gave Reagan a tour of Red Square where groups of “tourists” (KGB agents?) were positioned around the square.”
In the photograph, President Reagan can be seen shaking hands with a young boy.
Several men are surrounding the US President, however Souza urged followers to “note the man on the left with the camera around his neck.”
Incredibly, the photographer only picked up on the potential significance of the image more than a decade after he first took it.
Souza explained: “In 1993, I published a book of photographs (“Unguarded Moments”) from my tenure at the White House during the Reagan administration.
“Some ten years later, I received a random letter in the mail from someone who asked if I knew I had captured a picture of Reagan and Vladimir Putin as shown on page 145 in my book. (Putin had by then become the President of Russia). I was astounded by this letter.”
Eager to confirm his hunch, Souza consulted with experts at the Reagan Library and an NSC official in the Bush 43 administration to gain clarification on whether the man was, indeed, Putin.
“No one could definitively say whether it was Putin. In 1988, Putin was in fact in the KGB, though he was apparently stationed in East Germany,” he said.
Years later, after he returned to work as the the chief White House photograph for President Obama, Souza was interviewed by Steve Inskeep of NPR.
“I was telling this story as an example of how the relevance of presidential photos can change over time,” he said.
“And as soon as you see the photo you go, oh, my gosh, it really is him (Putin),’ were my exact words. A big mistake; I never should have said that, because in fact it had never been verified.
“The Kremlin apparently listens to NPR and almost immediately denied it was Putin.”
There was one further twist in the tale though.
“About a month after the NPR interview, I received a postcard to my home address.
“The Red Square photo was on the front of the postcard. The man in the camera was circled with a red marker, and someone had written the word “spy” and drawn an arrow to the man.
“I turned the postcard over to the Secret Service; nothing ever came of it.”
Souza later travelled to Russia with President Obama in July 2009.
Though the President met Putin, Souza has never quite been able to confirm, beyond all doubt, that he was, indeed, the man in the picture.