There has been much speculation about the health of its President Vladimir Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Some rumors suggest the 69-year-old has terminal cancer while others point to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease or dementia. Theories have even gone so far as to suggest that Putin may already be dead.
The leader launched the biggest war in Europe since World War II on the grounds that Western-leaning Ukraine was a threat and that Russia could not feel “safe, develop and exist”. Since the start of the invasion on February 24, thousands of people have died while towns and cities have lain in ruins. Around 13 million people have left their homes.
With the already prominent leader appearing on our screens more than ever, many have speculated that the Russian leader may not be in better health.
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It comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Russian forces have seized 20% of his country’s territory, as the invasion enters its 100th day on June 4.
Here are the rumors that suggest Putin could be sick – or worse. However, it should be pointed out that there is no hard evidence to confirm these rumors. Considering the impact he’s having on world events right now, it’s at least worth watching what people are saying.
1. Red eyes and lack of energy
“We can see a drooping chin hinting at a drop in energy. His eye area appears flushed and there is a lack of energy in his eye expression,” body language expert Judi James said. at the Mirror.
She said Putin’s last meeting with Alexey Tsydenov, the leader of the Republic of Buryatia, showed the despot displaying a range of emotions from a “rather urgent desire to establish control to a more anxious state. and even slightly confused”.
Judi said there was a sense of urgency when Putin spoke, which “might suggest someone or something not to argue with.”
She also said he seemed confused, continuing: “With the notes seemingly upside down at first. He corrects this but starts touching other sheets of paper, eventually straightening the paperwork in a ritual of correcting and recovery that might suggest some level of inner anxiety.”
She added: “If you crop only the outline of the eyes, we seem to see a man who is tired and lacking in energy or enthusiasm. His eyebrows droop on the outer sides, they are also kept furrowed in the middle in a gesture of worry or anxiety that creates four or five deep furrows in the skin of his forehead.”
2. Puffy Face
In recent television appearances, President Putin has appeared noticeably more puffy around his face and neck, it has been widely reported. The Telegraph suggested it could be because ‘he may be on steroids’.
Earlier, in November 2020, the Kremlin had to edit footage of the 69-year-old as he had a severe coughing fit on state television.
Politico quoted Fiona Hill – one of the United States’ most respected experts on Russia – as saying: “Putin doesn’t look so good, he’s got a pretty puffy face. We know he’s complained of having back problems. Even if it’s not anything worse than that, he may be on high doses of steroids, or there may be something else. There seems to be an urgency for this which can also be motivated by personal factors.
Fiona, who has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, added: “He may feel like time is running out – it’s 22 years, after all, and the likelihood after that kind of time that a Russian leader leaving voluntarily or through elections is pretty slim.
“Most leaders either leave as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko thought he might leave, following massive protests, or they die in office. The only other person who has been Russia’s leader in modern times for longer that Putin is Stalin, and Stalin died in office.”
Elsewhere, an unnamed US intelligence source told the Daily Star that President Putin’s “swollen face” may be due to chemotherapy drugs.
3. A weird long meeting table
During recent state visits by foreign leaders, President Putin has been photographed sitting across from his guests at an incredibly long table. Shortly before the announcement of the invasion during French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Moscow, the pair were seated 13 feet apart.
The Kremlin has claimed that Mr Macron’s refusal to take a Covid test forced President Putin to sit at such a long distance. However, he is known to have met senior officials from his own government around the same long table.
In March, a senior Royal Navy admiral suggested long tables could be a sign of poor health. Chris Parry, who was hosting an online debate with schoolchildren in Hampshire, said: ‘He uses these very long tables to quiz people. I think his immune system might be suppressed right now. He is therefore a man in a hurry.
4. Take regular breaks
Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele claimed on LBC Radio a few weeks ago that Putin had to take regular breaks from meetings to seek treatment. He said: “There is no clear political leadership coming from Putin, who is getting sicker and sicker, and in military terms the command structures and so on are not working as they should.”
5. Tremors and tremors
It has been widely reported that Putin appears to be shaking and this could be the result of Parkinson’s disease. This rumor has been circulating for several years after historian Professor Valery Solovei claimed that Putin had the degenerative disease. Others believe his apparent tremors point to dementia.
At the end of April, images circulated showing the 69-year-old man apparently trembling and anxious outside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Footage from the service showed Putin chewing his lips and fidgeting as he spoke only once in chorus with the congregation saying “really he is risen”.
Other images of Putin seated at a table showed him holding it tightly throughout meetings, suggesting he is struggling to stand. Professor Erik Bucy, from Texas Tech University, told Sun Online: “He’s a surprisingly weakened Putin compared to the man we observed just a few years ago. ‘a healthy Putin but a Putin appearing increasingly weak and barely able to stand at a small conference table.’
In this video, Putin can be seen greeting someone but being unsteady on his feet and nearly losing his balance:
Former KGB agent Mr Karpichkov said Putin was, or at least acted, “obsessed” with paranoid ideas, the Express reported. He said: “He literally views everyone, including those inside the Russian security services and even inside his inner circle, as ‘traitors’. He is so suspicious and so obsessed with his paranoid ideas that he can now be compared to Stalin.”
7. Putin may already be dead
MI6 sources say Vladimir Putin may already be dead amid speculation about the Russian leader’s health. The Daily Star reported that a lookalike may have been used for recent appearances as Kremlin cronies reportedly cover up his death in an attempt to cling to power.
The recent media appearances had most likely been pre-taped, a source said, while speculating that his appearance at the Victory Day parade in Moscow earlier this month could have been a lookalike, reports The Mirror.
An intelligence source said: “Putin is very ill and when he dies, his death will be kept secret for weeks or even months. “There is also the possibility that he is already dead. It is impossible to know.
“It is believed that Putin has used look-alikes in the past when he was sick and that the Kremlin may do so now. Putin is at the head of a small group of senior officials who are completely loyal to him.
“The real fear (for his cronies) is that once his death is announced, there could be a Kremlin coup and the Russian generals will want to withdraw from Ukraine. Putin’s death will leave them helpless and vulnerable, so they have a vested interest in saying Putin is alive – when the reverse might be true.
8. Putin is not sick or dying at all
Of course, the above are rumors at this point, so there’s still a good chance that Putin isn’t ill – or at least not terminally ill. Sources close to him said the leader was in good health.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, asked by Reuters if the president was in good health, answered “yes”.
“He has meetings all the time,” Peskov said by phone. “He has meetings today, tomorrow. I don’t know which ones we will make public.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday denied claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin was suffering from a serious illness. Lavrov spoke about Putin’s health during an interview with French TV channel TF1.
“I don’t think sane people can see signs of any kind of illness or disease in this person,” Lavrov said when asked about Putin’s health.
Lavrov also said Putin, who turns 70 in October, “appears in public every day.” He continued: “You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his speeches.
The Kremlin previously denied that Putin was in poor health in March. Speaking to The Associated Press at the time, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin’s health was “truly perfect”.