The history of health claims that have dogged Vladimir Putin

The Kremlin has always swiftly dismissed any claims that Putin has a severe illness

Joe Middleton
Sunday 17 March 2024 10:33 GMT
Rumours over Putin's health

For years Vladimir Putin’s health has been the subject of speculation and rumours - with claims he is suffering from an array of different ailments.

The most recent reports say he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, had a cardiac arrest and that he has been battling various forms of cancer.

However the Kremlin has always swiftly dismissed any claims that Putin has a severe illness and has also laughed off rumours he is using body doubles so that he can get some rest.

The 71-year-old has always been at pains to show the Russian people how tough and durable he is by being pictured doing judo, or in rural parts of Russia hunting and riding horses - usually topless.

He is extremely likely to begin his fifth stint as president imminently and may once again face questions about his health.

The Independent has rounded up some of the claims...

Parkinson’s disease

Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of M16, said that Putin has something “fundamentally wrong” with him and that his health is deteriorating.

Asked on LBC about the state of Putin’s health, Sir Richard replied: “I do not have a clear answer to that but I have contacts and friends still in Eastern Europe who think there is something fundamentally wrong with him medically. But I’m not a clinician.”

Expanding on what illness Putin may have, he said: “Probably Parkinson’s which of course has different representations, different variations, different seriousness.

Putin topless on a horse (Sputnik)

“But if the man is paranoid, and I think the murder of Navalny might suggest a certain paranoia, that is one of the symptoms.”

The rumours that he is suffering from motor neurone disease have been further compounded by a number of public appearances where he has looked frail and tense.

In a recorded meeting with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin could be seen tightly clutching his table throughout the sit-down meeting, and not letting go for the entirety of the 12-minute clip.

And in a separate meeting with Belarusian leader and ally Alexander Lukashenko he could be seen suffering from hand and leg tremors, while also at times clutching his fist to his body.


A former FSB officer has claimed Putin “has no more than two to three years to stay alive”, and that the Russian president has “a severe form of rapidly progressing cancer”.

“We are told he is suffering from headaches and when he appears on TV he needs pieces of paper with everything written in huge letters to read what he’s going to say,” the Russian officer told the Sunday Mirror.

“They are so big each page can only hold a couple of sentences. His eyesight is seriously worsening.”

Putin has faced intense speculation over his health (Sputnik)

A similar claim was made by a former oligarch who was recorded discussing Putin’s health with a venture capitalist.

In the recording, obtained by New Lines, a US magazine, the unnamed person said that Putin had surgery just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and added that the president has gone “crazy”.

According to a report by Russian investigative news outlet Proekt, Putin has taken dozens of trips in the company of a cancer specialist and it has also been seen by two otolaryngologists – ear, nose and throat specialists.

According to the newspaper he regularly goes to the resort city of Sochi in the company of doctors from Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital.

It has increased speculation that Putin has at some point undergone a complicated procedure related to some kind of thyroid disease or cancer.

Brain tumour

Angus Dalgleish, professor of Oncology at St George’s, University of London, has said that the way Putin has “acted and changed” in the last few years means he could have a brain tumour.

He told the Mirror: “Looking at him two or three years ago and now, there is a symmetry to his face.

“Which raises the question in my mind and the way he’s acted and changed his behaviour, his disconnect and cognitive problem is whether he has a brain tumour.”

Cardiac arrest

Another lurid claim is that Putin has suffered from multiple cardiac arrests.

A mysterious Telegram channel General SVR, which has previously made claims about Putin’s health, said the Russian leader was found by guards on the floor of the bedroom “lying on the floor, rolling his eyes”.

It claimed doctors rapidly administered CPR and he was then moved to a private medical facility in his Moscow apartment.

A spokesperson for the Kremlin has consistently dismissed the claims about Putin’s health as “absolute nonsense”.

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