By: Sam Doak
March 23 2023
Two of these photos have been misattributed. They do not prove that the Kremlin is relying on body doubles.
On March 20, Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine's Minister of Internal affairs, posted a graphic composed of three photographs depicting Vladimir Putin on Twitter. Included under each photograph are dates, indicating that the images were taken on February 21, March 18, and March 19. Captions suggest that they were taken in Moscow, Sevastopol, and Mariupol, respectively.
Commenting on this graphic, Gerashchenko wrote, "Which one do you think is the real one?" Given the visible differences in Putin's appearance across the three photographs, the clear implication is that one or more of the people pictured are body doubles. Within a day of Gerashchenko posting this tweet, it was shared over 5,100 times.
This is not the first time a Ukrainian official has accused the Kremlin of deploying body doubles. In October 2022, Ukraine's chief of Defence Intelligence, Major Kyrylo Budanov, claimed that it had become standard for doubles to be used in place of Putin. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Major Budanov said, "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."
A reverse image search can determine that two photos cited as evidence of Vladimir Putin using body doubles in Ukraine have been misattributed. The first was not taken in February 2023, as claimed. Instead, it was taken at a gala in the Kremlin State Palace in February 2020 by an employee of the Russian News Agency TASS.
The second photo included in the post in question was not taken in Sebastopol. Footage of a visit made by Vladamir Putin to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol makes it clear that the image was taken during this event. The third image was taken from the same visit, making it the only photograph in this post that has been correctly attributed.
This has never been definitively proven despite repeated claims that Putin relies on body doubles. In this case, discrepancies in his appearance shown in the second and third photos can be explained by variations in camera angles and facial expressions.
These photos do not prove that Vladimir Putin employs body doubles. The first image is from 2020. The remaining two show his visit to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. No evidence has surfaced to date that definitively proves allegations that the Russian President relies on lookalikes for protection. This claim has therefore been marked as false.