Russia expert issues grim warning on Putin health rumours

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s appeared provocative and mocking at the Moscow victory rally with no sign of a rumoured illness.

The pariah president declared ‘all glory to Russia’ in his speech a day after claiming a landslide victory in the sham election.

He also used the name of late opposition leader Alexei Navalny for the first time in public.

Those hoping to see a weak Putin showing signs of ill health were left disappointed as the 71-year-old marked the 10th anniversary of the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin hogged the stage during a concert to mark his latest election victory (Credits: EPA)

And compared to Donald Trump and 81-year-old President Joe Biden, Putin comes across fighting fit.

That’s according to Russia expert Stephen Hutchings, who says: ‘Health wise, [he is] probably ahead of those two.’

After Putin’s appearance on Monday at Moscow’s Red Square, the professor of Russian Studies at the University of Manchester said he does not believe we are seeing an ill man.

‘Yes, he is moving into his 70s now, but I can’t say I was taken aback by feeling he was under the weather or incapable,’ Prof Hutchings explains.

Vladimir Putin continues as Russian president for fifth term after the election (Credits: Kremlin/UPI/Shutterstock)

‘He sometimes stumbles over his words more than he used to. There were a couple of points where he paused as long as he did.’

Rumours about Putin’s health include Parkinson’s disease, heart attack and various cancers on top of plastic surgery and use of body-doubles to mask his death.

But the gossip risks playing directly into Kremlin’s hands.

Is Putin sick?

Some rumours have claimed Putin’s body was stashed in a freezer after he died in October.

And that Kremlin is using a doppelganger to cover it up.

Putin’s representatives have laughed this off, saying claims over a body-double were ‘absurd’.

They continue to deny that Putin has any health conditions.

Here is what has been bugging Putin, according to gossip.

Prof Hutchings says: ‘It’s a paradox. Those around Putin are happy to have these rumours circulate in a controlled fashion, because it shows how powerful he is and how people are concerned how he is wielding that power.

Putin appeared to show no sign of illness at the concert (Credits: Kommersant Photo/Polaris)

‘On the other hand it can get out of hand.

‘I don’t think they want people digging into his past too much and every aspect of his demeanor and manner, because despite the fact that it’s a repressive dictatorship and it’s not fully stable’.

The bulk of the health gossip was generated domestically in Russia by ‘ordinary Russians online’ despite heavy censorship of media, Prof Hutchings adds.

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Moscow’s Red Square on Monday evening (Credits: Kommersant Photo/Polaris)

Young Russians find ways around the restrictions and chat over apps like Telegram.

Prof Hutchings says: ‘Kremlin is unable in this digital era to shut down all dissent and speculation.

‘Living in a repressive regime he has installed creates prime conditions for all sort of rumours and speculation.’

For Western media outlets, dwelling on the rumours had a ‘degree of wishful fulfilment’.

But to think that Putin’s disappearance would be the ‘end of our problems with Russia’ was wrong.

‘We in the West tend to dwell on liberal democratic opposition of Putin, but there’s another strand of opposition, which is the more extreme right’, the expert warned.

Flanked by bodyguards, Putin hailed the ‘return’ of Crimea to Russia at the victory rally.

The 71-year-old has become ‘more and more provocative, mocking and sardonic over the years, and this was no exception’, Prof Hutchings says.

Putin’s previous mentions of Navalny were ‘always something anonymous and sarcastic like our well-known blogger’, he adds.

Alexei Navalny’s death in February sparked an international outcry (Credits: EPA)

With Navalny out of the picture after his suspicious death at a prison camp, Putin is ‘happy to name him now that he’s off the scene’.

Sunday’s elections were condemned in the West, with UK’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron labelling Putin’s Russia as undemocratic.

He said in a statement: ‘Putin removes his political opponents, controls the media, and then crowns himself the winner.

‘This is not democracy.’

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