Putins strong man narrative in tatters as cancer concerns surrounding leader grow

Vladimir Putin appears to grip onto table

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Putin’s health has been questioned due to video footage showing the president appearing shaky, fidgeting and looking puffy and bloated. A social media account, alleged to be run by a former official and insider, has now claimed Putin will have an operation, possibly for cancer.

A Telegram channel General SVR, allegedly run by an ex-Russian Foreign Intelligence Service lieutenant general, said Putin has been told by doctors the operation will incapacitate him “for a short time”.

The channel is believed to be operated by someone using the pseudonym ‘Viktor Mikhailovich’.

General SVR is alleged to have released a video claiming Putin had a two-hour “heart-to-heart” conversation with key aide Nikolai Patrushev.

Mr Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s security council and previously chief of the Federal Security Service, is said to be being lined up to temporarily replace Putin for a matter of days.

According to General SVR, Putin is also said to have “made it clear” to Mr Patrushev that he views the aide as “almost the only truly confidant and friend in the system of power”.

Theresa Fallon, founder and director of the Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies (CREAS) in Brussels, told The Independent about Putin: “I would say there is a great deal of speculation about President Putin’s health.

“[Putin] has always tried to emphasise his fitness and vigour, which is part of his brand.

“Illness does not fit with Putin’s strong man narrative that has been carefully cultivated over the years by the Kremlin.

“This makes me wonder if there is really something else going on behind the scenes.”

Since launching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, footage of Putin has led experts to claim he is suffering from “numerous health conditions”.

A video of Putin from mid-February showed the Russian leader welcoming Belarusian Leader Alexander Lukashenko.

In the clip, Putin can be seen holding one hand to his chest while the other is in a fist.

Putin’s hand appears to tremor uncontrollably, before he then presses it tightly to his chest.

The footage then shows him walking rigidly and unsteadily towards Mr Lukashenko, his legs trembling as he goes.

John Hardy, a neurogeneticist at the UK Dementia Research Institute told German news platform Deutsche Welle of the clip: “No sign of parkinsonism in my view…he did not look well…but not Parkinson’s disease.”


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Former KGB agent Boris Karpichkov told The Sun Putin’s preoccupation with protecting his “strongman” image means the state of his health will remain a secret.

He said: “He sees literally everyone, including those inside the Russian security services and even inside his close inner circle, to be ‘traitors’.

“He is so suspicious and so obsessed with his paranoia ideas that he can be now compared with Stalin.”

Mr Karpichkov added: “Another potential issue might be – judging from how he moves – that Putin can be suffering from the initial stages of either Parkinson’s, or another serious disorder caused by some form of cancer, brain tumour, for example.”

Moscow has repeatedly denied reports that Mr Putin has suffered from severe ill health.

In April, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Mr Putin had undergone surgery for thyroid cancer.

He said Putin’s health was “excellent” and that he had not dealt with any illness more serious than a cold.

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