Moscow has issued an extraordinary defense of President Putin, insisting he doesn’t use body doubles and is not “sitting in a bunker.”

 In a speech which listed what he said were fabrications made in the West about Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such claims are “yet another lie.”

 “You have probably heard that he [Putin] has very many doubles who work instead of him while he sits in a bunker," he said.

 "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," he added.

 “His energy can only be envied. His health can, God willing, only be wished for. Of course, he doesn't sit in any bunkers. This is also a lie.”

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 What’s prompted all this?

 Though never definitively proven in public, the body double claim has been floated throughout Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and resurface every time Putin makes a rare trip outside Moscow.

 Putin’s trip to Russian-occupied Mariupol in March prompted such speculation which centred on what appeared to be a rather weak chin.

There are even videos floating around social media highlighting what appear to be Putin’s high heels, adding this is further evidence that the Putin we see in highly publicised trips is in fact a body double.

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Why does the Kremlin care so much about some rumors on social media?

 The rumors have been elevated somewhat by Ukrainian officials who, never ones to miss an opportunity to mock their arch-nemesis, regularly fan the flames of speculation.

 Last year Ukrainian General Kyrylo Budanov speculated that Putin had three body doubles who have undergone plastic surgery after the Ukrainian government was left so confused by Russia’s constant military blunders in their ongoing invasion.

 “No matter how bad Putin is he’s not an idiot,” the General, who is also the chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence, said, adding that Russia’s war plan “does not follow any logic.”

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 “The big question is whether the real Putin still exists,” he said, claiming that Ukrainian intelligence had detected doubles being used to stand in for Putin on “special occasions.”

 It is “usual practice now,” the General said. “We know specifically about three people who keep appearing, but how many there are, we don’t know.

 “They all had plastic surgery to look alike. The one thing that gives them away is their height. It’s visible in videos and pictures. Also gesturing, body language and earlobes, since they are unique for every person.”

 Has Ukraine provided any proof for its claims?

 No, but Kyiv has no interest in stopping the speculation and officials have continued to add fuel to the rumor fire.

 To gain some insight into what might actually have been going on during Putin’s trip to Mariupol, Kyiv Post asked a representative of Ukrainian military intelligence, Andriy Yusov, for his opinion.

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 He simply said: “A man that looks like Putin visited Mariupol.”

 And just last week, Ukrainian officials suggested Putin used a body double to stage the recent highly publicized trip outside of Moscow to visit Russian-occupied Ukraine.

 Speaking on a nationally broadcast tele-marathon of combined news channels, National Security and Defense secretary Oleksiy Danilov called the person whom Russian state media said was the Russian president, as “an ordinary doppelganger” who was shown visiting the occupied Donetsk regional city of Mariupol in March and the partially seized region of Kherson this month.

 “There was no Putin there,” Danilov said on local television. “This is a well-known thing. In order to communicate with the real Putin, you have to spend at least 10-14 days in quarantine.”

 Danilov didn’t provide evidence to support his claim and – up until that point at least – Putin’s presidential administration categorically didn’t comment on whether doubles are used to stand in for the Kremlin leader.

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