Following the recent Wagner Group armed rebellion and their advance towards Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin found himself embroiled in controversy as experts suggest he may have employed a body double during his latest public appearance, according to a report by Newsweek.
The emergence of footage from Putin's visit to the southern Russian republic of Dagestan has reignited long-standing rumors surrounding the leader's use of stand-ins.
While the Kremlin denies these allegations, experts argue that the difference between Putin's usual behavior and security protocols points to the involvement of a body double.
Concerns over cracks in Kremlin's stability
This comes on the heels of concerns over cracks within the Kremlin's stability following the rebellion.
The video clips from Putin's visit have raised eyebrows among prominent Russian nationalist military bloggers and Western journalists, who have questioned the behavior displayed in the footage.
In the widely circulating videos, Putin can be seen warmly interacting with members of the public, shaking hands with enthusiasm and even kissing a schoolgirl on the head as they pose for a photograph.
These actions have fueled doubts regarding the authenticity of the person appearing in the footage.
Matthew Wyman, a senior lecturer in politics specializing in Russia at the UK's Keele University, is absolutely certain that the individual seen in the video is unquestionably a body double.
Wyman argues that it is unheard-of for Putin to engage in a public event just days after the stability of his rule was threatened by the Wagner Group rebellion. According to Wyman, Putin, known for his caution, would avoid exposing himself to unfamiliar groups of people.
Supporting this view, Marina Miron, a post-doctoral researcher at King's College London, highlights noticeable changes in Putin's behavior during the Dagestan visit, particularly his unprecedented openness when interacting with the crowd.
These departures from his established patterns have led experts to question the authenticity of the individual portrayed in the footage.
Pandemic body double?
Reports have previously surfaced, suggesting that Putin implemented strict quarantine measures during the COVID-19 pandemic to shield himself from infection risks. He was known to surround himself with an impenetrable barrier of quarantines.
However, the footage from Dagestan shows Putin taking selfies and engaging closely with ordinary people, which contradicts his past practices.
Observers have also pointed out that Putin's movements appear more rigid and controlled compared to his previous public appearances.
The use of body doubles by Putin has been a subject of speculation for years. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly claimed that the Kremlin leader employs stand-ins, asserting the presence of at least three different individuals impersonating Putin during public encounters.
Theories surrounding Putin's use of body doubles often focus on details such as gestures, body language, and earlobes. While it is impossible to definitively confirm the presence of a body double during the Dagestan engagement, experts argue that Putin may have intentionally adopted a different approach to reinforce his public image and demonstrate his willingness to let his guard down.
The alleged use of a body double during this critical period raises concerns about the stability of the Kremlin and the repercussions of recent events. Experts suggest that the Kremlin is likely striving to project an image of normalcy and continuity following the Wagner Group rebellion.
Moreover, the incident has potential implications for Putin's efforts to regain support and maintain his political standing.
Newsweek reached out to the Kremlin for comment on the allegations but has not received a response at the time of publication.