Budanov, chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine, claimed in an interview that the "real" Putin has not been seen in public for over a year, believing that this is due to the Russian president being ill for a long time, possibly with cancer.
Two weeks later, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky also cast doubt on whether Putin was still alive. (Related: Ukraine may have tried to ASSASSINATE Vladimir Putin using a kamikaze drone.)
According to Budanov, "the Putin who everyone used to know" made his last public appearance around June 26, 2022. The military chief claimed that Putin is either no longer alive, being propped up by the state due to his ill health, or he simply doesn't want to appear.
In October last year, Budanov questioned whether the real Putin still exists. He said the military intelligence service had detected Putin doubles in the past standing in for him on "special occasions" – but added that now it is "usual practice" for the Russian president.
"We know specifically about three people that keep appearing, but how many there are, we don't know. They all had plastic surgery to look alike," said Budanov. "The one thing that gives them away is their height. It's visible in videos and pictures. Also gesturing, body language and earlobes, since they are unique for every person. It's like a fingerprint – each person's ear picture is unique and it cannot be repeated."
A viral video earlier this year seized on speculation that Putin's only trip so far to the newly-conquered territory in Mariupol on March 19 was performed by a doppelganger.
It was unclear who made the footage but it appeared to be aimed at reaching Russians who rely on uber-loyalist state media for their news. The producers of the video said a specialist noticed differences in the Russian President's appearance, like the ledge on his earlobe, a mole or his wrinkles that "constantly change."
Rumors are rife that Putin's "understudies" – who have undergone plastic surgery to resemble him – were being deployed increasingly as his health worsened amid rumors of cancer and early-stage Parkinson's.
For the Russian president's Mariupol visit, the video claimed "they forgot to put in his jaw" as it looked different to the "real" Putin's and also speculated that the "double" could be wearing false teeth.
On March 20, Ukrainian official Anton Gerashchenko posted three images of Putin's chin and questioned whether they belonged to the same man.
Gerashchenko wrote: "What's up with your chin, Putin? It looked like lately his make-up artists had to work with quite a low-quality copy, not even a double but its copy. I wonder which one of them was real?"
One picture showed Putin a month earlier in an address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow. Another captured Putin's reported short visit to the naval port Sevastopol in Crimea on March 18 solely for the sake of a video photo shoot. A third was taken from footage released the following day, showing Putin in war-blitzed Mariupol.
The first image showed his chin tight and precise, but the image in Sevastopol depicted a sagging chin, while the Mariupol chin appears firmer, but less so than in the Moscow picture.
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Watch the following video to learn more about Vladimir Putin's full "Empire of Lies" speech on March 16 last year.
This video is from the Countess Erzsebet Bathory channel on Brighteon.com.