Mikhail Gorbachev
In recent years, rumours of Mikhail Gorbachev's death have circulated several timesGetty

For the second day in succession, false rumours took hold that Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, had died.

On Twitter, a fake account purportedly belonging to the Norwegian defence minister alleged the former Soviet premier's demise. It came just 24 hours after a false report circulated on Facebook alleging Gorbachev's death, and gaining more than a million "likes".

The office of Gorbachev quickly moved to deny the claims and affirmed the 84-year-old is in good health. "I just left his office," Vladimir Polyakov of the Gorbachev Foundation told the BBC.

In the age of the internet, rumours can spread with astonishing speed, with the false account which spread the latest death report believed to belong to Italian Twitter hoaxer Tommasso Debeneddetti.

However in recent years, rumours alleging the death of Gorbachev, the leader responsible for the Perestroika reforms of the mid-1980s, have surfaced with bewildering frequency, leading to speculation that not all are promulgated by internet pranksters.

Gorbachev is not the only politician whose death has been hoaxed.

In recent weeks, rumours of the death of current Russian president Vladimir Putin circulated online, after an unexplained 16 day public absence.

Though he has suffered health problems, and was treated in hospital in 2014 for a serious illness, he still works at the Gorbachev Foundation frequently, and also released a new book, After The Kremlin.

Foundation spokesman Pavel Palazhchenko described the rumours as "unpleasant and disgusting" and added he had "absolutely no idea" where they came from "but they happen from time to time."

"Mr Gorbachev is 84 years old so has some health problems. He has not made a secret of it, he has talked about it and is a very open person," said Palazhchenko.

Hackers to blame in the past

Hackers were blamed for 2013 reports on the Twitter feed of Russian state news agency RIA Novosti and its German language micro blog announcing Gorbachev's death.

The agency announced shortly afterwards that it had notified Russian state security service the FSB about the breach.

In 2012, a false date of death was entered on Gorbachev's Wikipedia entry, which soon went viral.

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Gorbachev is revered by many in the West for aiding the peaceful conclusion of the Cold War.

However in Russia, where the Putin's government has stoked nationalist sentiment, some regard him as a traitor, whose policies resulted in the collapse of the Soviet empire.

In 2013, Gorbachev told Der Spiegel "political circles" were behind the rumours. In an announcement, he accused those behind the rumours of "hoping in vain" and added "I'm alive and well".