Picture sparks more conspiracy theories about Putin 'body double' - what's going on?

The shoes (circled) that have sparked more conspiracy theories about Putin. (Getty Images)
The shoes (circled) that have sparked more conspiracy theories about Putin. (Getty Images)

A photo of Vladimir Putin wearing heels has sparked more conspiracy theories that the Russian president uses a body double.

The dictator was this week pictured with students at Moscow State University and appeared to be wearing chunky heels in an apparent attempt to boost his height. Putin is estimated to be 5’7”.

There have been previous - and completely unverified - claims Putin uses a double amid questions about his health and mental state.

These have been pushed in particular by the Ukrainian government amid the ongoing war in the country which was sparked by Putin nearly a year ago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with students while visiting the Moscow State University on the Students' Day in Moscow on January 25, 2023. (Photo by Maksim MISHIN / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by MAKSIM MISHIN/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
Another state-released image of Russian president Vladimir Putin at Moscow State University on Wednesday. (AFP via Getty Images)

Putin was pictured with a group of more than 20 students, most of whom were taller than him, on Wednesday.

Putin, who has previously been mockingly described by UK defence secretary Ben Wallace as suffering from "small man syndrome”, has become the subject of social media jibes about the heels and his height - though others suggested it was a deliberate ploy from his so-called double to make him taller in order to resemble the “actual” Putin.

There were further claims about Putin's appearance from the Telegram channel General SVR, which is known for pumping out claims - without evidence - about Putin's health.

Referring to the picture, it made claims such as the "left cheekbone of the understudy was swollen and moved unnaturally with the ‘president’s' facial expressions" and "an unnaturally hanging upper lip is the result of an unsuccessful ‘fitting’ of the understudy".

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In October, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s head of military intelligence, claimed Putin uses three body doubles who had plastic surgery to resemble him.

Budanov claimed in an interview with the Mail on Sunday that doubles are used to cover up Putin’s loss of control in the Russian government.

He said, without presenting evidence: “We know specifically about three people that keep appearing, but how many there are, we don't know. They all had plastic surgery to look alike.

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“The one thing that gives them away is their height. It's visible in videos and pictures. Also gesturing, body language and earlobes, since they are unique for every person.”

There have even been questions about whether Putin is actually alive.

These were permeated last week by Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said: "I don't quite understand that he is still alive, or that it is him particularly making decisions, or who is taking decisions there, who is the the circle of people making the decisions."