Ukraines military intelligence chief has revived a theory that Russian President Vladimir Putin is using body doubles -- and has pointed at his changing ears over the years as proof, media reports said.
Putin's (69) health has been the topic of fierce discussion among commentators, Daily Mail reported.
His close ally Nikolai Patrushev is said to have stood in for the president during his medical appointments, the report said.
This week, Ukraine's Major General Kyrylo Budanov appeared on TV to claim to viewers that Putin's height and ears have changed in recent appearances, The Sun reported.
He said: "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."
Budanov further alleged that Putin body doubles "have different habits, different mannerisms, different gaits, sometimes even different heights if you looked closely".
Budanov had previously claimed a Vladimir Putin body 'double' may have been used for his arrival at a summit in Tehran last month.
While the Russian leader looked awkward as he came down the steps of his presidential plane in Tehran, Ukrainian sources noted that he moved unusually quickly and was more alert than in prior public appearances, Daily Mail reported.
The Russian premier looked animated when greeting the waiting party, before removing his jacket and clambering into a heavily armoured limousine.
Budanov said he was suspicious of Putin's appearance in a live interview on Ukraine's 1+1 news channel.
Ukrainian reports said Budanov suggested that a Putin lookalike could have flown to Tehran to meet with the presidents of Iran and Turkey.
"I will only hint. Please look at the moment of Putin's exit from the plane. Is it Putin at all," he asked.
The Russian leader's visit to Tehran where he met Iran's leadership, plus Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attracted worldwide attention.
It is only the second time Putin has been abroad since launching his brutal invasion of Ukraine five months ago.
In one video, Erdogan kept Putin waiting, with the Russian ruler appearing ill at ease as he shuffled his feet and made strange facial movements. But earlier Ukraine did not suggest this was a Putin double. At the time, official Anton Gerashchenko posted on Telegram: 'Erdogan made Putin wait during the meeting in Tehran, Daily Mail reported.
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