Ukrainian officials and insiders claim Putin uses lookalikes to avoid assassination or to mask his apparent ailing health. This is not a new tactic used by Russian leaders, as Stalin’s political decoys have since spoken about their experience of impersonating the communist dictator.
If true, it would also not be the only instance of analysts observing Stalin strategy in Putin’s actions.
Journalist Lionel Barber has outlined how the 69-year-old resembles the Georgian, who ruled the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952.
He points to how a blitzkrieg plot was used in the hope of installing a puppet regime in Kyiv at the beginning of his invasion of Ukraine.
This is a tactic reminiscent of Soviet communism in Eastern Europe in 1945.
Putin has ruled Russia longer than any leader since Stalin. Both men promoted the notion of needing a “strong hand” to run the country, meaning they have faced little challenge to their authority.
Putin, 69, is believed to have experienced a health scare last week, according to a Telegram channel claimed to be run by a former officer from Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.
Despite having reportedly recovered from the illness, the channel claimed the Russian leader will continue to use “body doubles” for certain public appearances.
Earlier this year, it suggested body doubles had been put on alert to replace him if necessary for health reasons.
The account also claimed pre-recorded footage will be released of Putin attending meetings and signing laws to make it seem like he is still working.
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He said: “It’s probably true but the most troubling aspect is that he is already surrounded by so much mystery – when people are questioning whether it is really him during appearances, that tells you something about the nature of power in Russia.
“It’s almost comical. Nobody knows whether it is him or his double.
“We lose the line between reality and fiction”.
Putin, himself, admitted two years ago to being offered a body double in the early 2000s to carry out his duties for security purposes but claimed to have decided against it.
The tactic isn’t new for the Kremlin as Stalin, while leading the Soviet Union, used multiple body doubles who have since come forward and discussed their experiences.
One known as Rashid claimed he was one of several men employed by the KGB to fill in for Stalin when he was afraid of being assassinated, or to give the public the impression he was healthy when he was ill.
Felix Dadaev, a former dancer and juggler, claims to have also been ordered to work for the Kremlin as Stalin’s body double.
Fearing a death sentence if he opened up, he remained silent for more than 50 years, but then wrote an autobiography detailing his experience of impersonating the controversial leader.