Putin rejected offer to use body doubles during Chechen war

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with members of a working group created to discuss constitutional amendments in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. The working group proposed holding a nationwide vote on the changes on April 22. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had rejected an offer to use body doubles for personal protection during a conflict in Chechnya.

Speaking in an interview with the news agency Tass, another segment of which was released Thursday, Putin said the plan dated back to the early 2000s.

He said that it “came at the most difficult moment of fighting terrorism.”

In the early 2000s, Russia was fighting a war against separatists in Chechnya who also launched attacks elsewhere in the country. Putin visited troops in Chechnya hours after predecessor Boris Yeltsin stepped down on Dec. 31, 1999. He later said that a helicopter he was using came under fire during that trip.

Putin also made several other trips to Chechnya while fighting was still raging there. During one of those trips in March 2000, Putin flew into Chechnya in the seat of a second pilot in a fighter jet.

Putin didn’t elaborate on his motives behind rejecting the proposal to have body doubles.

The 67-year-old former KGB agent who has ruled Russia for more than 20 years also reaffirmed that he has continued to shun a personal cellphone. He said that he feels “more comfortable” relying on protected communications means and may occasionally use an aide’s phone.

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