A former KGB spy who studied with Vladimir Putin has claimed the Russian President is using body doubles at key events.
Allegations of Putin's use of body doubles have been running rampant for months.
Most claim it is to hide the fact that he is seriously ill – but the Kremlin has never made any comment on the matter.
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However, new video shows an unusually exuberant Putin at a helicopter plant in Siberia, which has further sparked wild conspiracy theories about war-mad Vlad.
The footage highlights him waving his hands around and repeatedly touching his nose, not behaviours especially common with Putin.
The dictator’s former KGB colleague Sergei Zhirnov said he had believed until now that claims of Putin using doppelgängers were “conspiracy theories”.
But he has changed his mind.
He contrasted a formal speech made by an isolated, “skinny” and coughing ex-spy Putin on February 21 with an appearance at a pro-war concert the next day in Moscow.
In this case, “a totally different Putin pops up” with “a wider face as if he bloated in 24 hours”, he told Ukrainian TV.
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"He has a totally different shape of eye orbits, a totally different head, absolutely different wrinkles – a different voice.”
Far from shunning people, he was “almost kissing and hugging everyone”, said Zhirnov, now exiled in France.
The appearance of the supposed Putin clone went wrong, alleged Russian Telegram channel General SVR, which regularly claims he uses doppelgänger actors who have undergone elaborate plastic surgery to exactly resemble the dictator.
The man “resembling the president showed imprudence and gave vent to emotions unusual for Vladimir Putin,” said a post from the channel today.
“Facial expressions and overly emotional waving of the hands for almost half an hour betrayed a double.”
Putin did not usually wave around his hands like an orchestra conductor, said the channel.
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“The makings of a conductor were not [previously] observed in Vladimir Putin, but yesterday his double waved his arms so much that one might think he was trying to portray a fan.”
The “understudy” blundered in saying to journalists that only 12 million Russians lived east of the Urals.
In fact the figure is 25.5 million, which the real Putin would know.
Body doubles were used by former Kremlin leaders, for example longtime Soviet supremoes Josef Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev.
Putin three years ago admitted that officials had considered using doubles, but he claimed the idea was rejected.
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