- President Vladimir Putin has always tried to present an image of himself in very good health.
- Ukrainian officials claimed in May that he was in hiding as being “extremely ill” with cancer.
- Rumors of health problems and secret surgeries have been chasing the Russian president for decades.
Speculation about President Vladimir Putin’s health reached a peak on Sunday after Christopher Steele, a former MI6 spy, suggested the Russian president may be seriously ill.
Speaking to Sky News, Steele said Putin’s health could be a factor in the invasion of Ukraine.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Putin has appeared in the media shaky and has been described – with varying degrees of reliability – as suffering from everything from Parkinson’s disease to dementia.
Putin has developed a masculine image at the height of his fitness for decades – but an investigation by independent Russian media outlet Proekt claimed this could only be done with great deception.
It is almost impossible to confirm most details about Putin’s health. Its chief spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has repeatedly denied any problems. Medical professionals refused to give weight to the rumours, as reported by Deutsche Welle, arguing that an accurate diagnosis can only be made through personal examinations.
Here is a timeline of the moments when Putin’s health was called into question.
October 2012: The Kremlin denies threatening an operation after a glider accident
In the fall of 2012, Reuters quoted three government sources as saying that Putin had back problems and would need surgery soon.
The Kremlin denied this, but after Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper reported that Putin injured himself while flying the kite, Peskov said the anger stemmed from a “common sports injury” in which Putin strained a muscle. As reported by The Atlantic.
November 4, 2012: The Kremlin cracks down on footage of Putin limping
By the end of December 2012, Proekt claimed Putin was wearing a corset, and due to potential back problems, sitting appointments were drastically reduced – or even skipped. The outlet quoted unnamed Russian officials to obtain information.
On November 4, Russia’s National Unity Day, the Kremlin was limited to footage of Putin’s appearance at a ceremony on Red Square, according to Proekt. However, footage released by religious leaders in Moscow showed the president limping slightly.
2016-2017: At least five doctors are with Putin wherever he goes
By matching the medical specialists’ check-in times to Putin’s itinerary, Proekt found that Putin was regularly accompanied by at least five doctors during those years — a number that would later rise to 13.
The outlet stated that among them are an ear, nose and throat specialist, an infectious disease specialist, a resuscitator and a neurosurgeon.
November 2016: Putin disappeared due to possible back surgery
Between November 25 and December 1, Putin only appeared in pre-recorded meetings, Proekt reported. Meanwhile, according to Proekt, 12 specialists suddenly entered the hospital in Sochi near where he lives, including general practitioners, neurosurgeons and a rehabilitation specialist.
May 2017: Putin falls into an ice hockey accident
Putin, an ice hockey player, almost rolled when he fell to the ground at the age of 64 during a match in Sochi. CNN reported.
According to Proekt, he was hit by player Pavel Bure. Then, an orthopedic specialist known to treat the president regularly came to a hospital outside Putin’s residence, Proekt reported.
August 2017: Putin disappeared with the presence of cancer doctors
Between August 8 and August 16 this year, the president disappeared from view with the oncologist and surgeon Yevgeny Silivanov, the Proekt website reported. The outlet said that the presence of an ear, nose and throat doctor indicates a problem with the thyroid gland.
The platform reported that Silivanov joined Putin’s medical delegation and traveled to his site 35 times in four years. The selling point said that only otolaryngologists would have seen him more often.
February 2018: Putin disappears with a “cold” at the height of the election campaign
Putin disappeared from view on February 1-12, 2018, just a month before Election Day, Proekt reports. Peskov confirmed his canceled events and said Putin had caught a cold. Per ABC News.
Fall 2021: obsession with self-isolation of COVID-19
An outbreak of COVID-19 among the president’s staff in September last year prompted Putin to self-isolate for two weeks. Ten days later, he denied any illness after he was seen coughing during a television session.
Soon after, the New York Times reported that Putin imposed stricter isolation measures on anyone who wanted to see him face to face — including a two-week lockdown before that and a requirement to go through a disinfection tunnel.
This comes weeks after Russia lifted most of the country’s new coronavirus measures, the newspaper reported.
In February 2022 – when world leaders begged him not to invade Ukraine – Putin held his meetings face to face at an unusually long table.
April 2022: shaky meeting recordings fuel speculation
Newsweek reports strange footage of a meeting between Putin and his defense minister on the 21st.
Besides his bloated appearance, the video sparked a flurry of popular speculation – none of which has been confirmed – that he might be suffering from the effects of steroid treatment or Parkinson’s disease.
—Max Seddon (@maxseddon) April 21, 2022
Other unconfirmed rumors arose from an anonymous Telegram account claiming to be a former Kremlin user.
May 2022: An unknown oligarch says Putin has leukemia
In early May, New Lines magazine obtained a recording of an unnamed Russian oligarch saying that Putin was “extremely ill with leukemia”.
The oligarch, unaware that he was being recorded, criticized Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, saying: “We all hope” that he will die and that “the problem is in his head.”
May 14: The head of Ukraine’s Military Intelligence claims that Putin is “extremely ill” and that a coup is underway.
Ukrainian intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Kirillo Budanov told Sky News on May 14 that plans to oust Putin were underway inside Russia, and that the 69-year-old was “in very poor mental and physical condition and very ill”.
Budanov said that Putin suffers from cancer. He denied trying to promote this idea in favor of Ukraine, but did not provide any evidence to support his claims.
May 18: MI6 experts agree, with one saying that Putin “will be gone by 2023”.
Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, noted in an audio broadcast that Putin had been ill for a long time by saying that he would “leave” by the end of the year and be transferred to “the sanatorium from which he will not leave as Russia’s leader.” “.
The former head of Russia’s MI6 bureau, Christopher Steele, also told British broadcaster LBC that Putin is “increasingly ill” to the point where it affects his leadership in the Kremlin and the conduct of the war in Ukraine.
He said Putin often had to take breaks from meetings to receive medical treatment.
Steele compiled the partially discredited Trump-Russia dossier, which included the explosive “urine tape” claim, the existence of which was never confirmed.
May 23, Western officials throw cold water on health-related rumors
Western officials have questioned many rumors about Putin and how his health affects his leadership. The comments came after Budanov alleged a failed assassination attempt on Putin two months ago.
But the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not confirm Putin’s authenticity and called it “speculation.” They also refused to confirm the assassination claim.
One of them said: “President Putin has a strong grip on his inner circle, the country and the decisions that are being made, despite all the speculation about his health.”
May 24: Ukrainian intelligence chief doubles down on allegations of Putin’s illness but says he has ‘a few years left’
In an interview with the Ukrainian newspaper Pravda published on May 24, Budanov claimed that he could “completely confirm” that Putin had cancer. However, he did not provide any evidence to support his claims.
“He suffers from several serious illnesses, including cancer,” Budanov said.
“But it is pointless to hope for Putin’s death tomorrow. There are at least a few years left,” he added. “Like it or not, but it’s true.”
May 29: The Russian Foreign Minister denied that Putin is ill, and experts agree that it is unlikely
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told French TV channel TF1: This was reported by the Russian news agency TASS: “President Vladimir Putin appears in public every day. You can see him on television, read and listen to his speeches.
“I don’t think any reasonable person would suspect any sign of illness or disease in this man.
“I leave it to the conscience of those who spread such rumors, despite the daily opportunities for everyone to see what he and the others look like.”
Three US intelligence and military experts told Insider reporter John Haltiwanger and Mattathias Schwartz that they are not taking the disease allegations seriously due to a lack of evidence.
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