Baths in blood extracted from the antlers of a Siberian fallow deer. Feces collected by loyal servants to avoid any possibility of analysis. Mysterious absences for medical treatment.
Rumors about the health of Vladimir Putin, who turns 70 in October, are sordid, grim and unverifiable.
But they illustrate the little, if not the absence, of information on the state of health of the Russian president, a crucial element as he leads a bloody war in Ukraine whose outcome will shape the future of Europe.< /p>
During his two decades of reign, almost nothing has leaked on his real health conditions, apart from the display of a radiant virility and form. Putin on horseback, Putin fishing bare-chested, Putin in judoka…
But as the Russian president ages and his physique has changed over the years – his face appears puffy, his movements sometimes seem tense – speculations start again.
The most in-depth investigation into Putin's health was published in April by the Russian-language site Proekt, based on open sources, to conclude that the president's trips in recent years to his dacha in Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, coincided with the displacement of an armada of doctors.
Among them, a specialist in thyroid cancer, Yevgeny Selivanov.
Rumors report baths in blood extracted from Siberian deer antlers, supposed to improve life expectancy and sexual vigor, a method recommended by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a native of Siberia.
According to the French weekly Paris Match, during visits to France in 2017 and Saudi Arabia in 2019, Vladimir Putin was escorted, when he went to the toilet, by a team responsible for collecting his excrement in order to avoid any sample that could give information on his condition health.
Recently, the weekly Newsweek, citing US intelligence sources, said he was treated in April for advanced-stage cancer. The US National Security Council has denied being the source of this information.
The head of Ukrainian intelligence, General Kyrylo Budanov, told Sky News that Putin was suffering from a cancer.
The one and only time the Kremlin confirmed a health issue was in the fall of 2012, when the Russian leader disappeared from public view and canceled meetings. The Kremlin had then mentioned a muscle strain and a Russian newspaper had reported back problems.
According to the Proekt site, it was during this period that major health problems appeared. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted strange behavior from the Russian president, reflecting, according to observers, his paranoia.
Officially, the head of state is vaccinated but, unlike the majority of his counterparts on the planet, no footage of him getting his dose has ever been released.
Its visitors are subject to drastic precautionary measures, including quarantine days. And everyone remembers the huge table separating the head of the Kremlin from his foreign guests, notably French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit in February before the start of the war.
Only visitors accepting to undergo the tests – which Mr. Macron had refused – are allowed to approach and shake hands with Putin.
During a meeting in late April between Vladimir Putin and his minister Shoigu, the images of the Russian president clutching the table also ignited speculation about a possible way to conceal his tremors.
In addition, the Kremlin has postponed indefinitely and without explanation the annual June event during which the president speaks with his compatriots by telephone.
Huge precautions are taken to protect him, such as during his annual press conference in 2020 when only a handful of duly tested and post-quarantine journalists were admitted to the room. And the president manages day-to-day business most often by videoconference.
What does the Kremlin say?
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has always denied these allegations. “I don't believe that anyone with all his senses can see in this person (Putin) any signs of any disease or ailment,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the channel at the end of May. French TF1.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Putin, did the same in a March interview with Japanese television. “If you think something is wrong with President Putin, you are the most pitiful person in the world.”
In recent appearances including a forum on Pierre Le Grand and an interview with Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhamedov, the Russian head of state has in fact shown no sign of weakness.
Why is this important?
The majority of observers believe that Vladimir Putin, master of the Kremlin with no obvious successor, will run again in 2024 after controversial constitutional changes allowing him to run for a third term.
“The country does not have a shred of truth about the physical and emotional condition of its president,” laments Proekt editor-in-chief Roman Badanin.
“The whole planet does not know if a person who can destroy humanity by pressing a red button is in good health”.