Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits aviation plant in Ulan-Ude. Reuters/SPUTNIK

According to a former KGB spy who attended the same university as Russian President Vladimir Putin, body doubles are being used at important events.

This claim comes in response to a video that has been making the rounds and shows a very excited Russian leader visiting a helicopter factory in Siberia. He is seen in the video making impassioned gestures and constantly rubbing his nose, which are not normal actions by the leader, Mirror reported.

Putin's former KGB colleague Sergey Zhirnov has changed his mind about the subject of body doubles. He used to ignore such claims as "conspiracy theories," but he has since altered his view.

He made a comparison between the formal address Putin gave on Feb. 21 compared to the next day's engagement at a pro-war concert in Moscow alone. He appeared "thin" and coughing during the event.

In this case, "a totally different Putin pops up" with "a wider face as if he bloated in 24 hours," he told Ukrainian TV.

"He has a totally different shape of eye orbits, a totally different head, absolutely different wrinkles - a different voice," Zhirnov added.

Far from avoiding contact with others, which he usually does to stay away from COVID-19, he was "nearly kissing and hugging everyone," he said. Zhirnov is a former classmate of Putin at the KGB Red Flag Academy and is currently exiled in France.

Telegram channel General SVR claimed that a body double allegedly filled in for the Russian president during Tuesday's appearance in Ulan-Ude following a five-hour trip from Moscow. The event took place at Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant.

The Telegram channel, which frequently asserts that he employs doppelgänger actors who have undergone intricate plastic surgery to precisely match Putin, alleged that the appearance of the Putin clone went awry.

Experts have mostly dismissed such claims as absurd and far-fetched.

According to a post on the Telegram channel, the man who "resembled the president" acted irresponsibly and let out feelings that were uncharacteristic of the president.

"Facial gestures and very agitated hand waving for almost thirty minutes revealed a double." According to the broadcaster, Putin did not frequently gesture with his hands like an orchestra conductor.

"The makings of a conductor were not [before] noticed in Vladimir Putin, but yesterday his doppelgänger moved his arms to the extent that one might conclude he was trying to portray a fan," the post read.

The alleged Putin body double remarked that 12 million Russians resided east of the Urals, while speaking with journalists. The actual number however is 25.5 million.

Prior to Putin's statement, a doppelgänger had claimed to have served in the marines. According to General SVR, President Xi of China will be meeting with Putin during their next summit next week.

Former Kremlin officials including longstanding Soviet leaders Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev also employed body doubles. Three years ago, Putin had claimed that the concept was discussed by officials but was rejected.

"I discarded the idea of any doubles," Putin said previously.

He acknowledged that during the early 2000s, when terrorist strikes shook Russia, the idea first surfaced. In occasions where the safety of the head of state might be in jeopardy, he claimed, it was suggested that a doppelgänger should step in.

Ukraine's head of military intelligence Major General Kyrylo Budanov claimed in October last year that Putin has three body doubles. He said that "no matter how bad" Putin was in the past, "he was not an idiot", but went on to argue that Russia's war "does not follow any logic".

The claims of Putin's body doubles have been gaining ground amid repeated rumours about his health – that he has cancer or Parkinson's disease.