A video of Russian President Vladimir Putin gripping a table during a televised meeting Thursday sparked concerns over his health, which some have claimed has deteriorated since the start of his country's invasion of Ukraine.
Putin's posture during the meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, during which he was purportedly slouched in his chair while holding tight to the table, raised questions about the president's health.
Critics have also questioned Shoigu's health, which some suspect led to the defense minister being sidelined during the invasion due to his own medical problems or a disagreement with the invasion, according to the Telegraph.
Putin was not looking at all well today. People have particularly noted his hunched position and the fact he never let go of the table during the entire 12-minute meeting with Shoigu. (Source: @SvobodaRadio.) pic.twitter.com/cjPyNh0l9F— Timothy Phillips (@TSJPhillips) April 21, 2022
“Shoigu has to read his comments to Putin and slurs badly, suggesting that the rumors of his heart attack are likely," Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist and former adviser to Russia and Ukraine, said, according to the Telegraph. "He sits badly. Poor performance."
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Putin praised Shoigu during Thursday's meeting, applauding the alleged capture of the port city Mariupol, which, alongside the capital city of Kyiv, was one of Russia's main targets.
“You successfully completed the combat effort to liberate Mariupol. Let me congratulate you on this occasion, and please convey my congratulations to the troops,” Putin said.
But there are still resistance fighters in Mariupol, and Ukrainian troops are still in control of the city, Ukraine said.
Putin's health has been in question since he ordered the invasion in February. The Russian leader's face and neck have appeared bloated in recent appearances, leading experts to suggest he is either taking steroids or undergoing chemotherapy. Putin was visited by a doctor who specializes in thyroid cancer 35 times and an ears, nose, and throat specialist 59 times between 2016 and 2020, according to Russian investigative news outlet Proekt.
Putin could be taking high doses of steroids for a back problem, Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia who served in U.S. presidential administrations, told Politico in February.
"Putin’s not looking so great. He’s been rather puffy-faced," Hill said. "We know that he has complained about having back issues. Even if it’s not something worse than that, it could be that he’s taking high doses of steroids, or there may be something else. There seems to be an urgency for this that may be also driven by personal factors.”
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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied multiple reports about Putin's deteriorating health over the years, including earlier this month when asked whether Putin had undergone surgery for thyroid cancer.