Ukrainian intelligence has claimed that Vladimir Putin has assembled three men who used plastic surgery to double for him. Major General Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s head of military intelligence, said the Russian leader deployed the men to cover up a disastrous fall from grace within the Kremlin. Mr Budanov also questioned whether “the real Putin” is still in power, as he alleged Putin uses the body doubles as “common practice”.
Mr Budanov said Ukraine is aware of “three people who keep appearing”.
Each of them, he claimed, had “plastic surgery to look alike”, but despite the work, they are far from convincing.
Mr Budanov said the body doubles seen by Ukrainian intelligence varied in their height and body language.
He told the Mail on Sunday: “The one thing that gives them away is their height. It is visible in videos and pictures.”
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Nuclear disarmament expert and former Russian UN mission worker Boris Bondarev told Sky News that Putin’s tenure resides on shaky ground.
He said: “I think the 20 years of him in power have been very lucky for him.
“He is not smart, he is just lucky. Now I think his luck is over.”
Mr Bondarev suggested Russia would ultimately lose the war and may “find some problems” explaining his failures.
He added that this could give rise to opposition groups who “will try to depose him”.
Conversely, Mr Bondarev warned Putin could choose to have others pay for his troubles in Ukraine.
The President may “try to purge his subordinates” or “sacrifice 10 or 20 million Russians” to try and win the war.
The war’s course out is a “matter of political survival to him”, and a loss could bring his end, the expert added.
Moscow is drip-feeding troops into Ukraine, with new waves arriving every few months.
Generals have focussed on fortifying frontlines in Kherson, which is under heavy fire as Ukraine pushes out Russian occupiers.
Ukraine’s General Staff said Moscow sent 1,000 more soldiers to replace losses in the area on October 28.
In a statement, the military officials said Russia rolled out the forces to “avoid panic among the personnel” and “hide the real losses of servicemen”.