Reports are increasingly circulating online and in print the baseless claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin is suffering from major health issues, and the Ukrainian government has further inflamed those rumors.
According to the UK’s Daily Mail, Ukrainian intelligence services — which would have every reason to foment and perpetuate this rumor, for propaganda purposes — claim that Putin did not really travel recently to Iran to meet with that country’s leaders along with Turkish officials.
“While the Russian leader looked awkward as he came down the steps of his presidential plane in Tehran, Ukrainian sources noted he moved unusually quickly and was more alert than in prior public appearances,” the outlet reported. “The Russian premier looked animated when greeting the waiting party, before removing his jacket and clambering into a heavily armored limousine.”
Ukrainian intelligence chief Major-General Kyrylo Budanov voiced heavy skepticism during a live interview that the man who landed in Tehran was Putin. The country’s media went on to report that Budanov believes Putin sent a body double to the meeting instead.
“I will only hint. Please look at the moment of Putin’s exit from the plane; is it Putin at all?” he said.
If anything, according to a video clip of Putin’s exit, it not only looks precisely like him, but it fed into previous reports that he could be suffering some medical problems. As Putin made the short walk to greet the Iranian and Turkish leaders, he swings his left arm as he walks but his right arm hangs motionless at his side. That said, as the clip plays, Putin does utilize his right arm, making a few gestures with his hand.
Putin’s trip to Tehran, where he met the Iranian president and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, attracted worldwide attention. So it makes no sense that he would send an imposter with the world literally watching.
The Daily Mail added:
It is only the second time Putin has been abroad since launching his brutal invasion of Ukraine five months ago.
In one video, Erdo?an kept Putin waiting, with the Russian ruler appearing ill at ease as he shuffled his feet and made strange facial movements.
But earlier Ukraine did not suggest this was a Putin double.
“Erdogan made Putin wait during the meeting in Tehran,” official Anton Gerashchenko posted on Telegram. “The whole spectrum of emotions of the humiliated and insulted Führer is on his face. The bunker is indeed the best place to stay with such a face.”
Earlier, Putin dismissed the notion of using body doubles, the outlet reported.
“I discarded the idea of any doubles,” he has said in response to suggestions he does so after Russia was hit with terrorist attacks in the early 2000s for events where he was expected to be in attendance.
“This was during the toughest time of our war against terrorism,” he said.
Nevertheless, former Soviet leaders including Josef Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev did in fact use body doubles.
As for his health, political scientist Valery Solovey, a Russia expert, has pushed back on CIA Director William Burns’ claim that there is no evidence Putin is suffering from any medical issues.
“The Americans, the CIA particularly, have information on the real state of health of the Russian president,” Solovey, who has long suspected that Putin is ill, said. “They definitely know that he has serious troubles, including mental ones.”
He went on to speculate that Burns made his remarks about Putin’s alleged clean bill of health because the Brandon regime is secretly negotiating with Russia regarding possibly withdrawing from Ukraine or at least ending its offensive. Time will tell, but Putin clearly has some issues.