Putin can't disguise his two 'black eyes'

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Was it a flying elbow during judo practice? A little nip and tuck? Or exhaustion from too many flights? Russian and Ukrainian media speculated feverishly yesterday over what could have caused two dark patches under Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's eyes. This was not just tabloid fodder – even the respected daily Kommersant joined in.

Mr Putin wore heavy makeup at a meeting on Wednesday with Ukraine's pro-Russian leadership, but yellow foundation could barely cover up bluish, bruise-like blemishes and puffiness on his cheek bones. Normally a confident orator who speaks with enthusiasm and humour, Mr Putin appeared tired and under the weather in Kiev. His remarks to the press were brief and he decided to take no questions.

A spokesman denied there was anything amiss. "There are no bruises there," he said.