What's happened to action man? Vladimir Putin forced to play down health rumours

Kremlin rejects claims by Japanese PM that meeting was cancelled because of illness


Vladimir Putin's spinal cord has become the hottest political topic in Russia in recent weeks, as Kremlin watchers and analysts play a guessing game over the extent of a back injury suffered by the Russian President.

After a month in which Mr Putin has been conspicuously absent from the television and has cancelled a number of foreign trips, he has announced a punishing December schedule, its intensity perhaps meant as a riposte to those who have suggested that there might be something seriously amiss with his health.

However, just as the Kremlin had convinced everyone that there is nothing wrong after all, sources in Japan claimed yesterday that the planned December visit of its Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, to Russia had been cancelled due to Mr Putin's bad health.

The mayor of a northern Japanese city claimed that Mr Noda had been told by Russian officials that Mr Putin would be in no state to receive him. The Kremlin was quick to respond. "This has nothing to do with the Prime Minister, it must be that his aides are mistaken," said Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin's spokesman.

A number of sources have confirmed that Mr Putin, 60, has had back trouble in the past month. Eagle-eyed Russian journalists spotted Mr Putin limping during a summit in Vladivostok; on another occasion, he appeared to be wearing a back brace.

Although there is conflicting information about what caused it or how serious it is, in recent days it has appeared that the action-man Russian President was on the mend. Mr Peskov, who has previously admitted that Mr Putin had aggravated an "old sporting injury", told Komsomolskaya Pravda yesterday that the President was carrying on with his punishing work and fitness routine as normal.

"He is working as he always did, and will always work as hard in future too," said Mr Peskov. "He is not willing to give up sport, and like any sportsman, he might get a small injury to his back, or his arm or leg. This has never harmed his ability to work."

Quite how Mr Putin injured himself is unclear. Alexander Lukashenko, the autocratic President of Belarus, said in a recent interview that he had been told that it happened during a judo bout (Mr Putin is a black belt).

Others have speculated that he injured his back during a much-mocked stunt in September, when he dressed all in white and piloted a microlight in a bid to help rare Siberian cranes migrate for winter.

Much of the speculation has emanated from the Kremlin's reluctance to admit that anything at all was wrong, despite evidence that Mr Putin was cancelling foreign trips and other appearances, perhaps due to a desire to keep up the image of Mr Putin as an infallible superhero.

The President cancelling his annual phone-in with the Russian people? Well, that was just out of concern that they might have to stand outside in the winter, and it would be nicer for people to do it in summer, said Mr Peskov. Mr Putin staying away from the Kremlin and instead working from his residence? That was simply a newly discovered concern that Muscovites should not be inconvenienced by the lengthy traffic jams that result from the presidential motorcade zipping through central Moscow.

As for the latest claims from the Japanese, they have been dismissed out of hand.

"There was nothing to postpone because the meeting had not been agreed, let alone a date set," said Mr Peskov. "I can repeat it for the hundredth time – there is nothing wrong with the President's health, and he is working very, very hard."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower