Major General Kyrylo Budanov, who is his country’s military intelligence chief, suggested Putin’s habits, face, and even the 69-year-old’s height had appeared different in recent pictures. Mr Budanov pointed to one specific aspect of Putin’s appearance in a bid to bolster his theory.
He told Ukrainian broadcaster Groshi: “The picture, let’s say, of the ears, is different.
“And it’s like a fingerprint, each person’s ear picture is unique. It cannot be repeated,”
Mr Budanov, who offered no actual evidence, was also quoted by Ukrainian news outlet TSN as saying Mr Putin is seriously ill, and using actors to avoid going out in public.
He said: “They have different habits, different mannerisms, different gaits, sometimes even different heights, if you look closely.”
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There has nevertheless been intense speculation about Putin’s health since he launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Some have highlighted videos in which he seems tense or shaky, arguing it could be an indicator of Parkinson’s Disease.
Proekt Media, a team of investigative journalists, has also claimed Putin was accompanied by several doctors, including a thyroid cancer surgeon, on multiple trips between 2016 to 2019.
At the weekend, a video seemed to suggest Putin had been unable to swat a mosquito which was buzzing around his face – but had no difficulty using his left arm to scratch his head.
Speaking in May, former government intelligence professional Christopher Steele said Putin was constantly surrounded by doctors and needed round-the-clock medial care.
He said: “Meetings of the security council that are shown to supposedly last for a whole hour are actually broken up into several sections, he goes out and receives some kind of medical treatment between those sections.
“So, clearly, he is seriously ill – how terminal or incurable it is not clear, we can’t be entirely sure.
“But it’s certainly having a very serious impact on the governance of Russia at the moment.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov vehemently denied the rumours about Putin’s health last month, telling reporters they were “nothing but fakes”.