Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged he was offered the chance to use a body double to make appearances in public for security reasons, but said he declined the offer and never used one.
- A Russian conspiracy theory claims Mr Putin has used different body doubles over his two decades in politics
- Mr Putin said he had been afforded the opportunity to, especially during troubles with Chechnya in the early part of the 2000s
- The Russian President also said he does not use a mobile phone
Mr Putin who has dominated Russian politics for more than two decades, has long been the subject of conspiracy theories in Russia — all of them unsubstantiated — that he uses a body double or even a small army of them.
One of the more elaborate theories compares photographs of Mr Putin over the years, claiming to have identified a number of different individuals posing as him.
But during an interview with TASS news agency, Mr Putin was shown a list of popular Internet searches purportedly associated with his name, one of which was entitled “Putin body double evidence”.
Asked “Are you real?” by the interviewer, Mr Putin replied “yes” before going on to deny that he uses a lookalike for public appearances for his own safety.
However he did say he had been offered the opportunity.
“I declined these body doubles. This [the offer] was during the most difficult periods of the fight against terrorism,” Mr Putin said, adding that he was referring to the beginning of the 2000s.
In the early 2000s, Russia was fighting a war against separatists in Chechnya who also launched attacks elsewhere in the country.
Mr Putin visited troops in Chechnya hours after predecessor Boris Yeltsin stepped down on December 31, 1999.
He later said that a helicopter he was using came under fire during that trip.
Mr Putin also made several other trips to Chechnya while fighting was still raging there and during one of those trips in March 2000, he flew into Chechnya in the seat of a second pilot in a fighter jet.
Mr Putin didn’t elaborate on his motives behind rejecting the proposal to have body doubles.
The 67-year-old former KGB agent who has ruled Russia for more than 20 years also reaffirmed that he has continued to shun a personal mobile phone and feels “more comfortable” relying on protected communications means and may occasionally use an aide’s phone.