Andriy Yusov, a representative of Ukrainian military intelligence, told Kyiv Post that the real Putin hadn't made a public appearance since Prigozhin's mutiny on June 24, raising doubts about whether the real Putin is just in hiding or even still alive.

"Since the events related to Prigozhin and the Wagner PMC, and the so-called appeals to Russians, we have been talking about the use of doubles. There is no proven information about Putin's death, but the frequent use of lookalikes raises questions among Russia's so-called elites," Yusov said.

Recently, “Putin” traveled to Dagestan, where he met with residents of Derbent. Propaganda channels published a video of the Russian president shaking hands with everyone and kissing underage girls.

Such actions by the Russian president seem rather strange, considering that, during meetings in the Kremlin, Putin usually keeps guests at arm’s length and sits them on the opposite side of a multi-meter-long table. Incidentally, this table was first mocked online after a meeting between Putin and Macron in February 2022, on the eve of the full-scale invasion.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with residents of Derbent during his working trip to Russia's Republic of Dagestan on June 28, 2023. Gavriil GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and UN Secretary-General António Guterres were seated at this table in the Kremlin. The Kremlin chief generally keeps his distance from generals or war correspondents in his office.

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The Chinese defense ministry said in a statement on Sunday that this operation is "not targeted at any third party and has nothing to do with the current international and regional situation."

"We are aware of at least three lookalikes being used; their true identities have not yet been established. Putin's appearance is quite typical and ordinary for the use of this technology. Putin's last trip to Dagestan was definitely by a double," Yusov comments.

The military intelligence official also stressed that there is plenty of direct and indirect evidence of the Kremlin’s use of doppelgangers. In particular, how they implement different security protocols directly indicate this.

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"The use of lookalikes in Russia has long been no secret. The question is not about their usage but about the real Putin and who holds power. Because the collective Putin exists, there is much direct and indirect evidence of this technology being used."

Russian ultra-patriot Igor Girkin, using his Strelkov soubriquet, has long doubted the reality of the Russian president.

"A person remotely resembling the president (and not at all required to observe the two-week quarantine necessary to get into the president's presence) was walking around Derbent," Strelkov wrote on his Telegram channel.

Other Russian bloggers have also questioned whether Putin's visit to Derbent was authentic.

"Why is it that in the Kremlin, Putin meets with visitors after their two-week quarantine and at a great distance, while in Derbent, he is calm in the crowd and even hugs and kisses some citizens? How can his security guards ensure the physical security of the president under such circumstances? Something is not right here; it looks like a theatrical production in which Putin is not really Putin," wrote a Russian Telegram user.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, is also convinced that Putin uses doubles, to replace him periodically in the media space. In addition to facial features, the "doubles" of the Russian president also differ in height and mannerisms. On May 17, Budanov also mentioned Putin's long-standing illness that has been ongoing since 2021 and speculated that it may be more serious and more advanced than the Kremlin was admitting..

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