(Paris) Baths in blood from the antlers of a Siberian fallow deer. Feces collected by faithful servants to avoid any possibility of analysis. Mysterious absences for medical treatment.
Posted at 7:06
Rumors about the health of Vladimir Putin, who turned 70 in October, are sordid, grim and unverifiable.
But they illustrate what little, if not no, information is available about the Russian president’s health, a crucial element as he wages a bloody war in Ukraine whose outcome will shape the future of Europe.
During his two-decade reign, almost nothing has leaked out about his real health status, apart from a display of radiant masculinity and form. Poutine on horseback, Poutine fishing shirtless, Poutine in judoka…
But as the Russian president ages and his physique has changed over the years – his face looks swollen, his movements seem strained at times – speculation has grown louder.
The most thorough investigation into Putin’s health was published in April by the Russian-language website Proekt, based on open sources and concluding that the president’s trips to his dacha in Sochi on the Black Sea coast in recent years have coincided with the Movement of an armada of doctors.
Among them was the specialist in thyroid cancer, Yevgeny Selivanov.
Baths in Siberian deer antler blood are rumored to improve life expectancy and sexual vitality, a method recommended by Siberian-born Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
According to the French weekly Paris matchDuring his visits to France in 2017 and Saudi Arabia in 2019, Vladimir Putin was accompanied by a team responsible for collecting his excrement when he went to the toilet to avoid samples that could reveal his health status could give.
Recently the weekly newspaper news week, citing US intelligence sources, said he was treated for advanced cancer in April. The US National Security Council has denied being the source of this information.
The head of Ukraine’s secret service, General Kyrylo Budanov, told Sky News that Putin has cancer.
Which information ?
The first and only time the Kremlin confirmed a health problem was in the fall of 2012, when the Russian leader disappeared from public view and canceled meetings. The Kremlin then mentioned a muscle strain and a Russian newspaper reported back problems.
Major health problems emerged during this period, according to the Proekt website. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the Russian president to behave strangely, which observers say reflects his paranoia.
Officially, the head of state is vaccinated, but unlike most of his counterparts on the planet, no picture of him receiving his dose has ever been released.
Its visitors are subject to drastic precautions, including quarantine days. And everyone remembers the huge table that separated the Kremlin chief from his foreign guests, notably French President Emmanuel Macron, during a visit in February before the war began.
Only visitors who have agreed to undergo the tests – which Mr Macron had refused – are allowed to approach and shake hands with Putin.
During a meeting between Vladimir Putin and his minister Shoigu in late April, images of the Russian president clinging to the table also sparked speculation about a possible method of hiding his tremors.
In addition, the Kremlin has indefinitely and without explanation postponed the annual event in June, during which the President calls his compatriots.
Enormous precautions are being taken to protect him, such as during his annual press conference in 2020, when only a handful of properly tested journalists were allowed into the room after the quarantine. And the President most often takes care of day-to-day business via video conference.
What does the Kremlin say?
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has always denied these allegations. “I don’t think anyone with all their senses can see signs of any illness or disease in this person (Putin),” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told French broadcaster TF1 at the end of May.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a Putin ally, did the same in a March interview with Japanese television. “If you think there is something wrong with President Putin, you are the most pathetic person in the world.”
Indeed, in his recent appearances, including a forum on Peter the Great and an interview with Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhamedov, the Russian leader has shown no weakness.
Why is that important?
The majority of observers believe that Vladimir Putin, ruler of the Kremlin with no apparent successor, will run again in 2024 after controversial constitutional changes allowed him a third term.
“The country does not have the slightest truth about the physical and mental condition of its president,” complains Proekt editor-in-chief Roman Badanin.
“The whole planet doesn’t know if a person who can destroy humanity by pressing a red button is sane.”