Media reports have indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin has started wearing bulletproof vests under his clothes for public outdoor events, on the recommendation of his security services.

Andriy Yusov, spokesman for the Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR) of the Ministry of Defense, told ArmiyaInform: “A person who looks like Putin has been using it [body armor] regularly for at least the last 5 years.”

The Moscow Times, citing two Russian officials and a source said to be close to the Kremlin, reported that Putin began wearing body armor in 2023 on the advice of the Federal Security Service and the Presidential Security Service.

“This year, on May 9, during the parade, the chief was wearing a hidden bulletproof vest. And I think this precaution is correct,” a Russian official present at Red Square during the Victory Day parade told the media outlet.

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Jade Miller, a British security consultant, examined video footage of Putin's speech at the May 9, 2024 Parade and concluded that the Russian president was indeed wearing a bulletproof vest.

“Putin walks quite stiffly, and the back of his coat doesn’t show the natural wrinkles of military personnel walking and shaking hands,” she said.

“Putin's upper body looks unnatural, and his shoulders appear quite broad and square, with no visible shape of his back or shoulder blades. In my professional opinion, Putin is wearing some form of ballistic protection while attending the parade.”

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The pilot forwarded documents to Ukraine related to the activities of his military unit as well as private photos of the command staff of the 22nd Heavy Bombing Aviation Division, HUR said.

Officially, the Kremlin rejects the need to increase security measures for President Putin.

“[Security measures] are at the usual level. What is needed is being done to ensure the security of the president,” the Kremlin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskovsaid  in mid-May, commenting on the assassination attempt on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Andrei Soldatov, who specializes in researching Russian intelligence services, told the Moscow Times that Putin takes his security seriously and always listens to new demands from his guards: “Putin, as a rule, agrees to increase the level of security and expand the security perimeter when his guards ask for it. He almost always meets their demands. And now, I think, even more so.”

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Ukrainian intelligence has repeatedly reported that Putin employs body doubles, even at official events. HUR’s Chief, Ukrainian General Kyrylo Budanov claimed in October 2022 that these doubles had undergone plastic surgery to resemble Putin.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail on Saturday in October 2022, Budanov said, “The big question is whether the real Putin still exists,” claiming that Ukrainian intelligence had detected doubles being used to stand in for Putin on “special occasions.”

Budanov stated that it happened regularly. According to him, intelligence specifically identified three individuals who kept appearing in Putin’s place, but the total number of doubles remains unknown.

Budanov added that all of these individuals had undergone plastic surgery to look alike. However, their height, gestures, body language, and unique earlobes, visible in videos and pictures, give them away.

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In August 2022, Budanov suggested that the Russian president was deploying lookalikes at public outings to hide health problems – problems widely discussed on social media but dismissed by analysts and officials in Washington.

The use of body doubles by notorious world leaders is not unprecedented.

According to US military officials the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein used a roster of body doubles. Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld expressed doubts about whether the Saddam Hussein, and not one of his decoys had been captured in 2003.

Joseph Stalin, leader of the USSR., was also said tor using body doubles, with one decoy, known only as “Rashid,” reportedly recruited to sit in for the dictator at banquets and meetings.

Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, is another dictator said to employ lookalikes. Videos of him meeting with two decoys were widely published in the international press in 2017. He is believed to use doubles to ward off potential assassination attempts.

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