During a meeting with "Russia – the Land of Opportunities," a nonprofit organization that aims to foster business development, Putin talked to Ivan Shtokman, the deputy mayor responsible for IT, tourism and business development in Nizhny Novgorod.
Uliana Yapparova, a Twitter blogger on Russian and Ukrainian issues, posted a clip of the conversation that quickly spread across social media. In the video, Shtokman shared his inspiring journey from working in a bakery to building a successful IT business, joining the army due to a patriotic calling and eventually becoming the deputy mayor of Nizhny Novgorod.
Shtokman also shared a patriotic moment he experienced while sitting on a bench in his summer house with his son. "The future of the country is now being decided," he said, explaining how this sentiment motivated his decision to join the army.
While lauding Shtokman's dedication to the country, Putin asked about the ages of his children. Shtokman responded that his youngest child was nine years old, with the eldest being 23. However, Putin appeared to get the ages wrong, stating that Shtokman's little one was three years old while praising his decision to join the front line.
The dialogue showing Putin's confusion sparked a thread of speculation about the president's mental state on social media. Netizens argued that Putin appeared distracted during the conversation, muttering about the future of the country while looking at the ceiling. Others, meanwhile, doubted his ability to hear people properly.
However, one netizen went as far as suggesting it could be a sign of "dementia," while Ivan Semyonov, in a separate tweet alongside the video, mentioned "Alzheimer's" as a possibility. (Related: COVER-UP: White House chief doctor deems Biden fit to work, but omits cognitive test.)
This incident adds to previous speculations surrounding Putin's health since the onset of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Unverified rumors about cancer, Parkinson's disease and dementia have also circulated, despite the Kremlin's insistence that Putin is in good health.
For nearly 18 years, Putin has been at the helm of Russia, becoming synonymous with the nation's tough and often hostile stance toward the West. However, several videos sparked speculations about his well-being.
Recently, Putin responded casually to news from Irkutsk governor Igor Kobzev about the death of soldiers in Ukraine. When Kobzev mentioned the deaths of their soldiers in Ukraine, Putin seemingly gave a flippant remark of "pass on my regards to them."
In April, a video of Putin in a meeting with defense minister Sergei Shoigu quickly went viral on social media. Netizens noted Putin gripping the side of the table tightly with one hand during the conversation. Experts in non-verbal communication weighed in, suggesting it could be an involuntary gesture or possibly a sign of a health problem.
Louise Mensch, a former U.K. politician, further fueled the rumors when she shared the video, claiming that Putin "has Parkinson's disease." However, Mensch has a history of sharing conspiracy theories online and has been referred to as "the manic queen of conspiracy" by The Times of London.
In response to the speculation, medical professionals have offered their insights. John Hardy, a U.K. neurogeneticist, said that he saw "no sign of Parkinsonism" in the video with Shoigu, though he did note that Putin "did not look well." Similarly, K. Ray Chaudhuri, a neurologist at the University of London, found no evidence of Parkinson's disease in the footage.
However, General SVR, an anonymously-run Telegram account, claimed that Putin is scheduled to undergo an operation. While the account is purportedly managed by a former Russian Foreign Intelligence Service official, its credibility remains questionable.
Prior to these recent rumors, there were already murmurs surrounding Putin's health. In 2020, The Sun, a British newspaper, reported that Putin might be battling both cancer and Parkinson's disease and suggested he could be on the verge of stepping down. However, the Kremlin swiftly dismissed these claims as "absolute nonsense."
Compounding the speculations, an investigative report by Proekt Media alleged that Putin had been accompanied by doctors, including a thyroid cancer surgeon, on trips to his residence in Sochi from 2016 to 2019. The report suggested that doctors may have performed surgery on him in November 2016. But until now, no direct confirmation of any illness has been provided.
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