Unconfirmed and unverifiable reports claim that Vladimir Putin is suffering from cancer or Parkinson’s disease, that the Russian leader has survived a coup attempt, or that he is already dead and has been replaced by a body double.
Photographs of Putin meeting top aides are scrutinized down to the smallest detail: is he gripping the table in pain during a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in late April? Is his puffy face evidence of steroid use, as former Foreign Secretary Lord Owen suggested in March?
As Russia’s war in Ukraine enters its fourth month, reports suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be ill. But that may be wishful thinking for Putin’s many detractors, who appear willing to accept conspiracy theories of divine vengeance or palace coups to justify his relentless assault on Ukraine.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was forced to deny speculation that Vladimir Putin was ill or dying in an interview on Sunday, as the diplomat continued to defend Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
“President Vladimir Putin appears in public every day,” Lavrov said in a French television interview. “You can see him on screens, read about him, and listen to his performances.” I don’t believe that rational people can detect symptoms of illness or poor health.”
He stated that he left reports of Putin’s ill health “on the consciences of those who spread such rumors.”
Putin spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan on Monday and presided over a meeting of his security council. Both meetings were held remotely as the Kremlin leader continues to be isolated from the coronavirus. Aides and world leaders who have met Putin but have not been quarantined have been seated at a long table dozens of meters away from the president. Last week, Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov stated that he believed Putin was seriously ill and had survived a recent coup attempt, citing only Caucasus-based assailants.
“He has several serious illnesses, one of which is cancer,” Budanov told Ukrainskaya Pravda in Ukraine. “However, it’s not worth hoping Putin dies tomorrow.” He also claimed that a coup would “eventually result in the Russian Federation’s leadership changing.” This procedure has already begun.”
According to a former Soviet spy, Putin suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and New Lines Magazine claims to have obtained a recording of an oligarch saying Putin is “very ill with blood cancer.” Both reports have not been confirmed. According to one report on the Proekt investigative website, Putin is thought to have thyroid cancer or another disease.
The report was based on leaked travel documents that revealed Putin had regular visits from an oncologist and two otolaryngologists, who the outlet claimed would frequently make a first diagnosis of a thyroid condition. The Kremlin has not confirmed any reports of Putin being ill, claiming that the Russian president is in good health. A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, called it a “fabrication and untruth.”
Rumors of Putin’s illness and injury date back more than two decades and are, to some extent, the Kremlin’s fault for closely guarding information about Putin’s health and whereabouts. Putin has been portrayed as an active sportsman since assuming power, in contrast to the image of Boris Yeltsin as a heavy drinker whose poor health made him an even worse leader.
In the past, however, Putin has vanished for weeks at a time amid reports of ice hockey and judo injuries. He recently admitted to an interviewer that he, too, had fallen off a horse early in his presidency.
The Kremlin has frequently used pre-recorded reports, dubbed “conserves,” to make it appear that Putin is in meetings when he is not. During the coronavirus outbreak, Putin claimed to be in Moscow when reports said he was in Sochi, occasionally appearing in an identical office as if in Moscow.
Since the start of the war, some reports have focused on Putin’s pained body language, implying that he may be suffering from back problems. A bulky frame has been explained as the president wearing a back corset or body armour when out in public.
Those rumors gained traction after Putin grimaced visibly during a meeting with Shoigu in late April. Putin will turn 70 in October, and the focus on his health will almost certainly continue as he ages. Budanov, on the other hand, believes Putin “still has at least a few years left.” That is the truth, whether we like it or not.”
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