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. Also gesturing, body language and earlobes, since they are unique for every person.”
The intelligence chief said the “big question” is whether Putin remains in charge, with rampant speculation about his future at Russia’s helm.
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.