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Does Putin have a body double and live in a bunker? Kremlin forced to deny rumours

Russian President Vladimir Putin... or is it? (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin... or is it? (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

The Kremlin has been forced to answer claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin hides in a bunker and is represented by a lookalike.

Moscow leaders on Tuesday responded to online speculation that Mr Putin, 70, is represented by hired actors because he is shielding.

Some reports have claimed that up to three actors are appearing as Mr Putin in public appearances. Others say the real president is hiding in an underground bunker.

Here is what we know about this bizarre story.

Why are people saying Vladimir Putin has a body double?

Mr Putin’s doubles have allegedly had plastic surgery (RussianPool)
Mr Putin’s doubles have allegedly had plastic surgery (RussianPool)

Major general Kyrylo Budanov, head of Russian military intelligence, was quoted by the MailOnline in November as saying Mr Putin has three body doubles.

“We know specifically about three people that keep appearing, but how many there are, we don’t know,” the general said. “They all had plastic surgery to look alike.”

He added that previously the lookalikes were wheeled out for only special occasions but now their appearances are more frequent.

The general said while the facial features of the lookalikes were similar, the height of the actors could be a giveaway they were not the real deal.

Does Vladimir Putin really have a body double?

Vladimir Putin is rumoured to have up to three lookalikes (via REUTERS)
Vladimir Putin is rumoured to have up to three lookalikes (via REUTERS)

According to Russia, the answer is no. That the question has even been answered shows how far the theory has spread, however.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday at a Moscow conference: “You have probably heard that he has very many doubles who work instead of him while he sits in a bunker… [This is] yet another lie.”

Mr Peskov added: “You see yourselves what our president is like: He always was, and is now, mega-active — those who work next to him can hardly keep up with him. His energy can only be envied.”

Why do people think Vladimir Putin is ill?

Vladimir Putin’s hands have suggested to at least one expert that he may have cancer (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin’s hands have suggested to at least one expert that he may have cancer (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Kremlin has previously denied tbhat Mr Putin is ill. Reports recently showed his hands in a condition some suggested signified signs of cancer.

Last year, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director William Burns jokingly told an audience he thought the leader looked “too healthy” for his own liking.

Mr Putin did once admit, according to news network ABC, that he was once offered a body double — but declined.

The Russian president was last seen in March meeting Chinese counterpart Xi Jingping in Moscow. It has not been stated whether he will stand for another term as leader when his current stint is legislatively set to end in 2024.

Does Vladimir Putin live in a bunker?

Vladimir Putin and his long-time mistress Alina Kabaeva (AFP)
Vladimir Putin and his long-time mistress Alina Kabaeva (AFP)

Professor Valery Solovey, a former professor at Moscow’s prestigious Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), was among those to have alleged that Mr Putin was ill. He later claimed Mr Putin was living in a massive underground city.

The Mirror in April 2022 reported he was hiding there from potential nuclear attacks and that the city could house 100,000 people. Mr Putin’s gymnast lover Alina Kabaeva was also reportedly living in a secure location within Moscow.

Mr Peskov rubbished these claims on Tuesday.