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Vladimir Putin denies years of rumours that he uses body doubles

Vladimir Putin has admitted that he was once advised to use body doubles to avoid being assassinated - but denied ever using one.

Rumours have persisted for two decades that the 67-year-old Russian president often uses decoys to protect himself, but he has now said they are not true.

Sitting down for an interview with Russian news agency TASS, he was asked bluntly by reporter Andrei Vandenko: 'Are you the real Putin?'

'Yes', he responded.

Vladimir Putin has denied years of rumours that he uses body doubles to avoid being assassinated, but admitted that he was once advised to use them

Asked by interviewer Andrei Vandenko 'are you real?', Putin responded: 'Yes'

'I refused to have doubles,' Putin added. 'It was during the hardest times of the fight against terrorism.' 

As Prime Minister and then as President, Putin oversaw the war against Islamist separatists from Chechnya between 1999 and 2000.

After Russia claimed victory, terror attacks increased in the Caucasus while bombers also targeted the country's main cities. 

'The double would go where things were dodgy?' asked Vandenko.

'Well yes, go, put in appearances,' Putin confirmed. 

Putin said he was advised to use doubles in 2000 shortly after the war with Chechen rebels finished, leading to a rise in terror attacks across Russia

Soviet leaders including Josef Stalin were well-known for using body doubles in order to foil assassination attempts

Body doubles were reportedly used by former Kremlin leaders such as Josef Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev.

Putin has denied having a double since 2001 when he was quizzed on the issue by a woman in a love TV broadcast. 

In 2009, people in Sochi did not believe that a walkabout by then President Dmitry Medvedev and prime minister Putin involved the real leaders.

Medvedev said at the time: 'We are not doubles, we are real.'

Putin regularly travels to towns and cities across Russia's 11 time zones clocking up far more air miles than any previous Kremlin incumbent.