VLADIMIR Putin had has been mocked by a Ukrainian minister for sending an alleged body double to Mariupol – with his oddly shaped chin believed to be a key clue in spotting the difference.
The tyrant popped-up unexpectedly in the devastated city, which is currently under Russian occupation, at the weekend – with his visit compared to one made by Hitler there during WW2.
He was filmed by Russian state TV driving around the stricken city and meeting with residents on his first visit to Ukraine since the war began 12 months ago.
State media reported Putin, 70, made a "working trip" to the war-ravaged port city of Mariupol.
But he was mocked by leading official Anton Gerashchenko who posted three images of Putin’s chin and questioned whether they belonged to the same man.
Rumours about Putin's health and reports of his paranoia have fuelled speculation he could use body doubles or camera tricks.
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And a former KGB spy revealed he also believes Putin has been using lookalikes to take his place at state events.
But at this stage all of this remains speculation and nothing has been confirmed.
Gerashchenko, who is an adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister, shared the pictures of Putin
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“What’s up with your chin, Putin?," he wrote.
He said that “looks 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?”
His pictures showed Putin, 70, one month ago in an address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow.
Another was Putin’s reported visit to naval port Sevastopol in Crimea on March 18.
And the third was from footage released the following day evidently showing the dictator in war-blitzed Mariupol.
The first image showed his chin tight and precise.
But the image in Sevastopol – grabbed from Ukraine in 2014 – incited a sagging chin, while the Mariupol chin appears firmer but less so than in the Moscow picture.
A Russian source said: “He has these moments when he looks like a babushka [grandmother] without teeth.”
Another odd video from the visit also appeared to show Putin tugging awkwardly at his face.
And today Kremlin "insider" Telegram channel General SVR – that claims to have sources in the Russia state – alleged Putin never visited Mariupol.
The Russian anti-Putin channel alleged: “The same applies to the visit to Mariupol.
“The double was filmed [but]did not talk much and did not stay anywhere for a long time.”
In Mariupol, the president was seen on a nocturnal drive not wearing a seatbelt with scant visible security.
“The ‘spontaneous’ rides of ‘Putin’ around Mariupol at the wheel, without blocking the streets, without a motorcade of guards, and going out ‘to the people’ in the front-line occupied city is not only unrealistic, it's not even funny.
“The President was at that time many hundreds of kilometres away, warm and completely safe.”
Putin with his “pathological cowardice” was not “risking his precious life”.
The channel claimed: “Actively using a double, recently, Putin is increasingly becoming a ‘fake’ president.
“The whole country is already laughing over the inconsistency of the understudy with the original” in appearance, behavior and habits.
Instead the real Putin was “undergoing treatment” and preparing for today’s state visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
It was also claimed that in Mariupol, Putin had met with looters when he was greeted by locals who had been allocated new housing.
Mariupol.Sprotiv channel identified a pensioner who showed the president his new flat as Nikolay Lotkov, 70.
Next to him was his son Dmitry and daughter-in-law Ekaterina, who Ukrainian sources alleged were involved in looting during the siege of Mariupol last year.
Another woman who met Putin, named Irina Volosatova, is also accused of looting.
She thanked Putin for taking over the city and creating “a small piece of paradise”.
But a source told the resistance publication: “It was her and her family who looted both my parents' flat, and our neighbour’s flat from a floor above.
“Her entire family was busy looting and threatening my parents.”
And meanwhile, elsewhere on the visit Putin was heckled by a resident – with a woman's voice shouting: "It’s all lies, it’s all just for show".
Putin's public appearances are always carefully stage-managed – with Vlad being caught out last year as the same "actors" have been spotted multiple times.
He is rumoured to be both in poor health and fearful of his future.
Kyiv continues to call for Western support to help them defeat Putin, who has so far lost more than 150,000 soldiers.
Vlad foolishly believed his forces would be welcomed into Ukraine as liberators when he invaded last February.
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But instead the initial attack ended in a disaster which saw his forces devastated and thrown back to Russia.
Putin's future is now believed to be tied to the success or failure of his war in Ukraine – with an arrest warrant being issued for him over war crimes.
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