Russian President Vladimir Putin has admitted he was offered the chance to use a body double for security purposes, but rejected the idea.
He said the plan was tabled in the early 2000s, when Russia was fighting a war against separatists in Chechnya.
A 67-year-old former KGB agent, Mr Putin made several trips to the region during the conflict.
For years he has been the subject of conspiracy theories online, including that he uses lookalikes for security.
But Mr Putin, who has been in power since 2000, said he “declined these body doubles” on every occasion he was offered them.
The question was brought up by Andrei Vandenko, a journalist who interviewed Mr Putin for Russia’s Tass news agency.
Mr Vandenko said “Putin’s double” and “Putin body double evidence” were among the most popular internet searches associated with the Russian president’s name.
The interviewer asked Mr Putin: “Are you real?”
In reply, Mr Putin confirmed he was real before denying he used body doubles for security reasons.
He said the idea was mooted during the 1999-2009 war, “at the most difficult moment of fighting terrorism”.
Mr Putin is due to step down as president in 2024, when his fourth term of office comes to an end.
But there is speculation he could seek a new role or hold on to power behind the scenes.
He is already the longest serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union for more than two decades in the last century.
In January, Mr Putin proposed sweeping constitutional changes in his annual state of the nation address to lawmakers.
The full consequences of those changes are not yet clear, but analysts believe they will ensure he retains power in some form.