As if there were not enough uncertainty in the world at the moment, the week opened with new speculation about the health of Vladimir Putin. The Russian president, who recently turned 71, was said to have suffered a stroke at his residence outside Moscow and to be in intensive care or, at the very least, under the beady eye of his doctors.
Such rumours, it should be said, come around periodically, and in recent months and years, Putin has been reported as suffering from a whole range of chronic or terminal illnesses, from Parkinson’s disease to various types of cancer. As in this case, reports may be adorned with graphic accounts of the supposed emergency – a fall, spilt food, or convulsions.
I tend to dismiss such reports as black propaganda – or wishful thinking – put about by his many adversaries. The claim that Putin, known as a sports and health fanatic, travels with a personal doctor or even a medical team would not make him unique among national leaders. What is more, the reputed invalid invariably pops up, sooner rather than later, looking as energetic and spry as usual.
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