It is widely believed that Vladimir Putinis willing to do anything to assert his power and show that it’s ‘business as usual’ for Kremlin following Yevgeny Prigozhin’s uprising against the Russian Army chiefs and the President himself.
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Although he tried to stay calm while addressing the nation after Wagner Group’s fighters started marching to Moscow and cold-bloodedly exiling Prigozhin to Belarus, the embarrassing situation has left him weakened, experts agree.
To eliminate backstabbing risks, Vladimir Putin has already started a clean-up within the Russian army, secret services and political elite, removing those not fully loyal to him. The crackdown already claimed top general Sergei Surovikin, deputy commander of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
To add to his 'business as usual' show, Vladimir Putin also made a bold move launching himself into the crowds during his visit to the Naryn Kala fortress in the Republic of Dagestan two days ago. To experts' surprise, he was more sociable than ever.
They now believe that posing for selfies with people and kissing random children was not Vladimir Putin at all but his body double. Here is what they say.
Meanwhile, Kremlin could be facing another revolt from this paramilitary group that vowed to destroy its 'tyranny'.
Russia analyst: Putin is using a stand-in
To demonstrate his lack of fear following the Wagner Group of mercenaries' attempted rebellion, Vladimir Putin made an appearance before crowds of fans in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan.
But the PR move did the opposite effect as it quickly reignited the rumours that the Kremlin leader uses stand-ins.
Visiting the Naryn Kala fortress in Derbent to discuss tourism in the region, Vladimir Putin was shaking hands with excited supporters and posing for selfies.
It was precisely that sociable mode that made analysts suspicious.
Matthew Wyman, a senior lecturer in politics specialising in Russia at the UK's Keele University, found a sudden change in the Kremlin leader’s behaviour ‘extraordinary’ for a person who is ‘highly, highly cautious about who he lets near him’.
There is no question that that was not Vladimir Putin. That was a body double.
Wyman believes it’s ‘totally inconceivable’ for the quarantine-obsessed President to engage with crowds of random people just days after the attempted mutiny.
The expert added:
You are not going to put yourself in any groups of unfamiliar people at all," he said.
Dmitry Peskov: body double rumours ‘yet another lie’
According to Wyman, Vladimir Putin’s body language during his last appearance in Dagestan wasn't typical for him either. The emotionally tight politician ‘just does not act like that’.
The President’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskovdismissed suggestions about stand-ins as ‘yet another lie’ in April.
The controversial security strategy is not completely new for the Kremlin whose irreplaceable leader once revealed that he had been offered to use stand-ins for public appearances in the early 2000s buthe ‘declined these body doubles’.
Wyman didn’t explain how he thought the Kremlin achieves the likeness to make a persuading living copy of Putin.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian secret services who support the speculation, believe that ‘gesturing, body language and earlobes’ are what gives away the stand-ins away.
- Newsweek: ''No Question' Putin Using Body Double After Mutiny—Russia Analyst'