IT has long been rumoured to be the case, but could a pair of high heels have finally given Vladimir Putin's secret away – does the Russian leader use body doubles?

He wouldn’t be the first world leader to do so?

Far from it. Many a dictator before the Russian leader have used body doubles down through history, with Saddam Hussein among them. The Iraqi tyrant and his sons, Uday and Qusay, all used impersonators for protection on occasion, with Uday's body double the focus of a 2011 Hollywood movie, The Devil's Double, starring Dominic Cooper. North Korea's Kim Jong-Un is also said to use a raft of doubles and was once caught on camera apparently conversing with one of them.

So what has happened?

An image supposedly of Putin – who faces relentless rumours of ill health – posing with students in Moscow days ago, has sparked intrigue as it features the 5ft 7in leader in high Cuban-heeled black shoes.

What’s the issue?

The social media app, Telegram – hugely popular in Russia as residents try to find a way around the heavy censorship of the country’s internet controls – has a particular channel “General SVR” which claims to feature reports from Kremlin insiders, the latest of which alleges the man pictured is actually Putin's "main body double”, due to "obvious differences”. One post read: “A person similar to Putin, unlike the original, was absolutely not afraid to be near a large number of little-known and completely unfamiliar people, which is not at all typical for the president in the past few years.”

More than that?

The post continued that “obvious differences were observed on the face of pseudo-Putin and in the manner his behaviour. The left cheekbone of the understudy was swollen and moved unnaturally with the ‘president’s' facial expressions. An unnaturally hanging upper lip is the result of an unsuccessful ‘fitting’ of the understudy.”

And others agree?

Jason Jay Smart, a special correspondent for the Kyiv Post who is banned from Russia for opposing Putin, tweeted: "It appears that in most public events, a body double attends – not the real Putin. The changes in his height, ears, and weight are otherwise inexplicable.” Ukrainian military intelligence chief Major General Kyrylo Budanov suggested last year that Putin's ears looked different in several appearances as well as his habits, appearance and height.

History on repeat?

Adolf Hitler is thought to have used up to two dozen dopplegangers to help evade detection and hide his true location.


Not a body double, but a voice double, In a controversial revelation in the 1970s, a then well-known actor, Norman Shelley – who during his career appeared as Colonel Danby on The Archers – made headlines when he claimed he had been asked by the British Council to stand in for Churchill on radio broadcasts on occasion. The claim sparked outrage amongst historians, but in 2000, the actor’s son found an old record stamped “September 7, 1942” and marked “BBC, Churchill: Speech. Artist Norman Shelley.”

So it was true?

Churchill’s speeches were delivered originally by him in the House of Commons, but Shelley claimed the war leader was too busy to record his words at first, so he stepped in, although Churchill later agreed to record some of his speeches for the BBC archives.