Myth or truth: How many doubles does Putin have?
Propaganda is an integral part of any war, including the current one in Ukraine. Both sides publish news that often has nothing to do with the truth. This is also logical, because the truth is the first to suffer in war.
In that context, these days, through social networks, every move of Russian President Vladimir Putin is often the subject of analysis by the Western media. From the very beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, it was written that Putin was allegedly seriously ill, and it was also mentioned that he uses doppelgangers, doubles or whatever it is called. How true this is, it is difficult to realize when considering that the advancement of technology, fake news, the deepfake tool which appeared as the biggest challenge in the fight against the spread of misinformation on social networks are increasingly present in the internet sphere. Although it seems like an interesting application, its misuse often serves to spoil one's image and many of the world's media claim that this time too it was used after Russian President Putin came into focus on world media since he recently visited the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, the occupied Ukrainian city that Putin visited, on "Telegram" wrote that "Putin or one of his doubles" was on an overnight visit to the occupied region - not Putin himself.
Which one do you think is the real one? pic.twitter.com/SV8TVdnUQE
- Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) March 20, 2023
Similar speculations also reached from the Russian side. The Russian extremist Igor Girkin Strelkov spoke about this issue.
"When I see the supposed Putin in the crowd, I immediately know that i see the double, and no one knows what he's talking about, he's probably talking nonsense," Girkin said.
"When I see an alleged Putin in the crowd, I immediately know I see a double."
Igor Girkin pic.twitter.com/l0jLhhfYKG
— Nekhay Shchastyt (@NekhayShchastyt) March 20, 2023
Twitter users analyzed that Putin's double went to Ukraine, focusing on and comparing the shape of his ear and chin with photos from 2006 and 2018.
What is the biggest mystery about Putin?
The head of Ukraine's intelligence service, Kyrylo Budanov, told the British Daily Mail last year that Russian President Vladimir Putin uses his doubles who have undergone plastic surgery. Budanov in an interview for The Daily Mail said that the Ukrainian government is very confused by Russia's repeated military mistakes during the invasion and that many people are wondering if Putin is still making the key decisions.
As bad as he is, Putin was no idiot." The Russian plan does not follow any logic. The big question is whether the real Putin still exists," the head of Ukraine's intelligence service said, claiming his men had discovered doppelgangers used to stand in for Putin on special occasions.
Putin and Mariupol….
This is the original video, which was deleted immediately after publication in RIA Novosti, and the cropped version was already played on TV.
At 17 seconds, a woman from the window shouts "it's all not true, it's all for show" 😔 pic.twitter.com/SRkWidkiu0
— MAKS 22🇺🇦 (@Maks_NAFO_FELLA) March 19, 2023
The exact number of doubles used by the Russian president is not known for now. According to the Ukrainian media, these data are carefully hidden and represent a state secret. Besides, it is unlikely that the entire Kremlin knows about Putin's doubles. Only trusted people around Putin have such information. But the number of three doubles is mentioned more and more often in the media.
How many stunt doubles play the Russian president?
Budanov, who is also a general, says that the use of doubles is now a common practice.
"We know specifically of three people who keep showing up, but we don't know exactly how many there are. "They all got plastic surgery to look the same," says the intelligence officer.
Budanov believes that changes are inevitable in Moscow and that the replacement of Putin is in the interest of "the whole civilized world". Russian state media have linked Budanov to covert operations in Crimea, as he is a former special forces operative who was later appointed head of military intelligence.
Only this one. #Putin pic.twitter.com/yExhVGxLN5
— Mirek Szczerba (@mirek_szczerba) March 20, 2023
Budanov has previously stated that Putin uses doubles. He told Newsweek that Putin used doubles during public appearances to hide health problems. He also revealed information that Putin's henchmen are different from each other. He emphasizes that there are specialists of the Ukrainian intelligence service who are trained on this topic.
"The picture, for example, the ears are different. And it's like a fingerprint, the image of each person's ear is unique. It cannot be repeated," explains Budanov.
He also claims that Putin's doppelgängers have different habits, mannerisms, gaits and are even different heights.
ears are like thumbprints. which one matches? pic.twitter.com/RsAj9dVxPo
— 🇺🇦Palkyi Dorjee 🇺🇦 #freetheATACMS (@OMPMH) March 19, 2023
Which leaders throughout history had doppelgangers?
This question is also difficult to answer. As the Ukrainian media write, the looks were carefully chosen so that no one would ever realize that it was a fake person. However, the world media on this topic analyze that Russian President Putin is not the only world leader who is reported to have doubles. In 2008, a man named Felix Dadaev publicly stated that he was one of the four impersonators of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. According to some reports, the Soviet leader was convinced that his life was in danger, and after World War II he thought he was being hunted by German agents. There were also stories that Adolf Hitler used different men as his doubles several times before and during World War II.
From that last fresh memory about this same similar phenomenon, the media also wrote in 2003. Namely, the German media during the war in the Middle East and the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime claimed that the former Iraqi president was often replaced by doubles on television appearances. These analyzes were based on sophisticated techniques, which were able to detect differences in the position of his facial gestures. The stunt double, or decoy double, has the role of posing as someone else, in order to distract attention or take a risk for the person they represent, but also to send messages to the public that may be untrue at that moment.
How to recognize "deepfakes", fake photos and misinformation
Detecting "deepfake" videos and fake photos and recognizing misinformation about mass event attendance There are also online media literacy resources. Every piece of information means something to the audience because it is usually based on it that they build their own attitude and take the next steps. But the fact that we live in an era when artificial intelligence is used to create convincing photos, audio and video hoaxes, and the media is often a tool for audience manipulation. False information, photos and videos aim to sell, convince, confuse, but above all to deceive. They are used to impose an opinion on the public, take sides or cause fear and panic.
Hence, video resources for improving media literacy can also be checked out on one of the pages of RAND, an online tool where you can check whether it is disinformation, fake video or untrue content by simply inserting a link from the video, news or information. Online media literacy resources are increasingly being established in the world public with the aim of improving media literacy globally.