A bloated Vladimir Putin has been seen gripping a table whilst slouching in his chair during a televised meeting with his defence minister amid rumours the Russian strongman is battling cancer.
In a rare live appearance, Putin claimed Russia had ‘liberated’ the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, as he savagely ordered Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to seal off all routes out of the Azovstal steelworks where defiant Ukrainians are holed up ‘so that even a fly cannot pass through’.
But Putin’s poor posture and his apparently bloated face and neck sparked speculation about the Russian leader’s health, which has reportedly been in decline since his invasion of Ukraine.
Video showed Putin speaking to Shoigu whilst gripping the edge of the table with his right hand – so hard that it appears white – and tapping his foot consistently.
Shoigu does not appear to have fared any better in the eight weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, with the defence minister slurring his words and reading from his notes following an apparent heart attack.
A bloated Vladimir Putin has been seen gripping a table whilst slouching in his chair during a televised meeting with his defence minister Sergei Shoigu amid rumours the Russian strongman is battling cancer. Shoigu does not appear to have fared any better in the eight weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, with the defence minister slurring his words and reading from his notes following an apparent heart attack
But Putin’s poor posture and his apparently bloated face and neck sparked speculation about the Russian leader’s health, which has reportedly been in decline since his invasion of Ukraine
Vladimir Putin’s five medically-related disappearances
November 2012: Business trips and long-distance flights of the president are canceled, some of Putin’s meetings shown by the Kremlin turn out to be ‘canned food’
March 5 – 15, 2015: Putin does not appear in public, all meetings are ‘canned’ – in other words pre-recorded events were shown with the pretence they were in real time
August 9-16, 2017: The President, with journalists, visits Abkhazia and Sochi, and then for a week the Kremlin publishes only ‘canned food’
February 2018: In the midst of an election campaign, the president cancels public events. Peskov admits that the head of state ‘had a cold’
September 13-29, 2021: Putin goes into ‘self-isolation’, all events are held via video link
Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist and former adviser to Ukraine and Russia, said the video showed both Putin and Shoigu ‘depressed and seemingly in bad health’.
‘Shoigu has to read his comments to Putin and slurs badly, suggesting that the rumours of his heart attack are likely. He sits badly. Poor performance.’
Professor Erik Bucy, a body language expert from Texas Tech University, told The Sun Online: ‘It’s an astonishingly weakened Putin compared to the man we observed even a few years ago.
‘An able-bodied president would not need to keep himself propped up with a hand held out for leverage and would not be concerned about keeping both feet planted on the ground.’
‘This is not a portrait of a healthy Putin but one appearing increasingly feeble and barely able to hold himself upright at a small conference table,’ Bucy added.
Putin’s bloated face and neck has sparked claims he is undergoing steroid treatment, whilst reports have suggested Putin is ‘constantly’ accompanied by a doctor specialising in thyroid cancer.
Surgeon Yevgeny Selivanov, of Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital, has flown to the Russian leader no less than 35 times in Black Sea resort Sochi, his favourite place of residence.
The respected doctor’s thesis – showing his area of medical expertise – was entitled: ‘Peculiarities of diagnostics and surgical treatment of elderly and senile patients with thyroid cancer’.
‘Shoigu has to read his comments to Putin and slurs badly, suggesting that the rumours of his heart attack are likely. He sits badly. Poor performance,’ Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist and former adviser to Ukraine and Russia, said
Service members of pro-Russian troops, including fighters of the Chechen special forces unit, stand in front of the destroyed administration building of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works
Meanwhile Shoigu, who is in charge of the bloody invasion of Ukraine, has been noticeably absent from public view amid reports the defence minister and Putin’s relationship has become strained after Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has led to more than 20,000 Russian troops being killed.
Last week, a Russian-Israeli businessman claimed Shoigu suffered a heart attack, which he suspects was caused by foul play.
Leonid Nevzlin claimed Shoigu had been in intensive car after suffering ‘a massive heart attack’ which ‘could not have occurred due to natural causes’, suggesting Putin’s longtime ally may have been the subject of an assassination attempt ordered by his boss.
Some have claimed Shoigu and Putin’s poor health is due to the faltering invasion of Ukraine.
During the televised meeting, Putin hailed the ‘liberation’ of Mariupol as a ‘success’ for Russian forces, and ordered a siege of the Azovstal plant.
‘There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities. Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can escape,’ Putin said.
The British Ministry of Defence said today: ‘Putin’s decision to blockade the Azovstal steel plant likely indicates a desire to contain Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol and free up Russian forces to be deployed elsewhere in eastern Ukraine.’
There are at least 500 wounded soldiers inside the plant needing medication and surgery including amputations, while a number of elderly civilians are also in need of urgent treatment.
‘They have almost no food, water, essential medicine,’ Ukraine’s foreign ministry said
A pro-Russian troop stands in front of the destroyed administration building of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol where hundreds of Ukrainians are trapped
An armoured convoy of pro-Russian troops waving Russian flags moves towards Mariupol yesterday which Putin claims he has ‘liberated’
Defiant Ukrainians holed up inside the steelworks are still refusing to surrender Mariupol despite being surrounded by Russian forces.
Today, Captain Svyatoslav Palamar from the Azov Battalion insisted: ‘I always say that as long as we are here, Mariupol remains under control of Ukraine.’
Volodymyr Zelensky echoed the remarks in an overnight address, saying Mariupol ‘continues to resist’ the invading forces.
Palamar’s comments are the first to emerge from inside the steelworks, the last remaining bastion of resistance in the city which has been razed to the ground, since Putin claimed victory yesterday.
He described the chilling sight inside Azovstal and its labyrinthine tunnels where scores of dead civilians are trapped in bunkers and under collapsed buildings after taking refuge there from the constant shelling.
The soldier told the BBC: ‘All the buildings in the territory of Azovstal are practically destroyed. They drop heavy bombs, bunker-busting bombs which cause huge destruction. We have wounded and dead inside the bunkers. Some civilians remain trapped under the collapsed buildings.’
Putin’s ‘lover’, 38, reappears with a ‘new look’ in Moscow – sparking rumours she has used same cosmetic surgeon as Vladimir – amid claims she was hiding in a Swiss chalet or Siberian nuclear bunker
Vladimir Putin’s rumoured lover has reappeared with a ‘new look’ in Moscow following rumours she was hiding in a private chalet in Switzerland or a Siberian nuclear bunker.
Olympic gold-medallist Alina Kabaeva, 38, resurfaced at a junior rhythmic gymnastics rehearsal in Moscow’s VTB Arena this week ahead of the Alina Festival, a charity event scheduled for Saturday.
Kabaeva is widely believed to be the Russian strongman’s mistress and mother to four of Putin’s children whom he has never officially recognised.
Pictures of Kabaeva at the event in Moscow sparked speculation that the former gymnast had used the same cosmetic surgeon as Putin amid claims of botox and fillers.
‘Something has really changed in Kabaeva’s face… the legendary athlete was noticeably prettier,’ wrote the Russian Cosmopolitan.
Olympic gold-medallist Alina Kabaeva, 38, (right) resurfaced at a junior rhythmic gymnastics rehearsal in Moscow’s VTB Arena this week ahead of the Alina Festival, a charity event scheduled for Saturday
Pictures of Kabaeva (centre left) at the event in Moscow sparked speculation that the former gymnast had used the same cosmetic surgeon as Putin amid claims of botox and fillers
Kabaeva is widely believed to be the Russian strongman’s mistress (pictured together at an event in the Kremlin) and mother to four of Putin’s children whom he has never officially recognised
Avoiding linking her to Putin so as not to be censored by the Russian state, the magazine said: ‘Alina Kabaeva is one of the most mysterious and secretive women in our country.
‘The gymnast almost never appears in public, does not [appear in] social networks, and it is not possible to accidentally see her on the street or in shopping centres.’
Telegram channel Tol’ko Nikomu – also choosing its words carefully to avoid the Russian censor – hinted that she and Putin share the same plastic surgeon.
‘A new rare appearance of Alina Kabaeva. This time she is dressed casually – and is again seen with a wedding ring.
‘And yes, the handwriting of the family beautician is quite notable.’
A TV version of Kabaeva’s festival will be broadcast on the eve of Russia’s 9 May Victory Day commemoration marking the end of the Second World War.
Alina Kabaeva pictured at the rehearsal of her sports festival Alina 2022 in VTB Arena, Moscow
Kabaeva pictured with junior gymnasts at the rehearsal of her sports festival Alina 2022 in VTB Arena, Moscow.
A pro-Russian troop stands in front of the destroyed administration building of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol on Thursday where hundreds of Ukrainians are trapped
This is seen as the day when Putin will seek to declare some kind of victory in Ukraine, possibly claiming he has seized the entire Donbas for Russia.
The West has so far not sanctioned Kabaeva, who as well as being Putin’s rumoured secret partner is also chairman of the board of directors at National Media Group – a major Kremlin-obedient TV and newspaper behemoth – with a salary of almost £8 million a year.
Kabaeva and her supposedly secret young family with Putin is believed to have been sent to a private chalet in Switzerland or one of several high-grade bunkers in the Urals, Arctic or Siberia.
A petition, launched by citizens in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine two weeks ago, has called for Swiss authorities to kick Kabaeva out of Switzerland and deport her back to Russia.
The appeal, which describes Kabaeva as the ‘favourite wife of the delusional dictator and war criminal Putin’, has since reached over 73,500 signatures.
‘It’s time you reunite Eva Braun with her Führer,’ the strongly-worded petition said.
‘Despite the current war, Switzerland continues to host an accomplice of Putin’s regime.’
Putin and Kabaeva have been pictured together on several occasions, and investigations by the Anti-Corruption Foundation, set up by jailed Putin opponent Alexei Navalny, revealed several Russian oligarchs have inexplicably bestowed gifts of property, money and other assets upon Kabaeva’s family.
Navalny has demanded from his prison cell that Kavaeva faces sanctions.
Navalny posted from jail: ‘I want to remind you that the National Media Group, which owns the lion’s share of this apparatus of lies, undoubtedly belongs to Putin personally, and as such is even formally headed by Putin’s mistress Alina Kabaeva.’
He called for her as a Putin propagandist to be treated as a ‘war criminal’.
A petition, launched by citizens in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine two weeks ago, has called for Swiss authorities to kick Kabaeva out of Switzerland and deport her back to Russia
The former gymnast is seldom seen in public, but she was caught on video dancing at the ‘Divine Grace’ rhythmic gymnastics tournament in Moscow in December last year, mere weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine. It was her last public appearance before this week.
Rumours first linked her romantically to Putin as long ago as 2008 when she was a pro-Kremlin MP.
The newspaper printing the story was rapidly closed down.
Putin – who in 2013 announced his divorce from wife Lyudmila, a former Aeroflot stewardess – has previously said: ‘I have a private life in which I do not permit interference. It must be respected.’
He deplored ‘those who with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies prowl into others’ lives’.
Kabaeva is on record as saying she had met a man who ‘I love very much’, gushing: ‘Sometimes you feel so happy that you even feel scared.’
In 2001 Kabaeva was temporarily banned from competing in rhythmic gymnastics after failing a doping test.
A year earlier she had won gold at the 2000 summer Olympics.
Alina Kabaeva shakes hands with Vladimir Putin during a meeting with other gymnasts in the Kremlin
Once regarded as Russia’s most eligible woman, her only other suitor has been a married Georgian policeman, according to media reports.
This relationship petered out in 2005 amid complaints of tabloid intrusion into her life.
She once posed almost nude for Maxim and was described as ‘full of sex’ by a photographer.
There have been many reports of her wearing a wedding ring, but no records of a marriage.
She is reported to have a fleet of Maybach limousines at her disposal, and was seen surrounded by a squad of machine-gun toting security guards on visits to a Moscow cafe, likely indicating she qualifies for state-level security.
Many Russians saw her as the reason for the breakup of Putin’s marriage to ex-first lady Lyudmila, 63, mother of his two adult daughters.
The dictator of neighbouring Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko hinted that Putin’s divorce decision came about because Kabaeva ‘put pressure on the president’.
From 2018 she disappeared from the public eye for almost three years, amid suspicions she had given birth to twins at a Moscow hospital .
Tabloid Express Gazeta recounted in May last year – when she was still out of sight – that she had ‘literally vanished.
‘After the giving-birth-to-twins reports nothing was heard about Kabaeva, as if she had disappeared.
‘Alina is not giving interviews, nor attending social events, nor participating in any TV programmes.
‘One can only guess what is happening in her private life.’
In her only statement linked to the war, Kabaeva slammed the refusal to allow the Russian team to compete at the Beijing Paralympics.
‘There has never been a more shameful page in the history of world sports,’ she said.
‘They did not worry and did not remove from the competition any country that participated in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
‘But sports officials were very angry when Russia decided to protect the Donbas and Luhansk from the Nazis.’
She complained that Olympic officials ‘tried so hard to humiliate the Russians, banned our symbols, flag and anthem’.
But still Russians succeeded ‘due to the talent of our athletes.
‘Russia was, is and will be a great sports power – and you can’t do anything about it.’
NMG is seen as under the sway of Yury Kovalchuk, 70, a sanctioned oligarch very close to Putin.
The group owns shares in a range of major Russian outlets including REN TV, Channel 1, STS TV, 5th Channel, Izvestia and Sport Express, which are also subsidised by the state.
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