Vladimir Putin sparked further fears about his health, after he was filmed limping during a surprise visit to Crimea today. The Russian President has been plagued by intense speculation about his health over the last few months. There have been numerous claims suggesting the Kremlin boss has both pancreatic and prostate cancer, as well as suffering from Parkinsons disease.
Putin has also at times appeared frail and doddery in videos and photos, which has helped to fuel debate about his overall health and ability to continue as leader of his country.
The 70-year-old paid a visit to Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the illegal annexation of the peninsula back in 2014.
He was filmed walking around Sevastopol, which is one of the naval bases’s of Russia’s Black Sea fleet and which has been targeted by Ukrainian strikes in recent months.
The Russian President was accompanied on his walkabout by Mikhail Razvozhayev, the governor of Sevastopol, and six bodyguards.
He was shown around a children’s art school and the Tauric Chersonese museum by his host.
However, Putin appeared to be in some discomfort as he was walking, in stark contrast to previous appearances earlier this week in Moscow and the Siberian city Ulan-Ude, where he showed no signs of a limp.
Mr Razvozhayev claimed the visit had come as a complete surprise, as originally the plan had been to hold a video conference call.
The Governor wrote on his Telegram channel: “Our president knows how to surprise.
“Everything was ready for a video conference call and a report was to be presented to him by a special communications channel.
“Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin just arrived here. Himself. He drove here.
“Because on this historic day the president is always with Sevastopol and its residents.”
The Kremlin has continually dismissed suggestions that the Russian President is battling life-threatening illnesses, calling them “fake” news.
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This is a view that appears to be shared by a British expert on Russia, Professor Mark Galeotti.
Professor Galeotti, a director of Mayak Intelligence, told Newsweek that there was a lot of “wishful thinking” when it came to the state of Putin’s health.
He said: “I’m deeply sceptical that Putin has some health problems likely to lead to his imminent death or incapacitation.
“There is a great deal of rumour, propaganda and wishful thinking in play.”
Putin’s visit comes a day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest.
The Kremlin chief, along with his Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova, is accused of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children from the occupied territories to Russia and as such committing a war crime.
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In a statement the ICC said: “There are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children.”
Putin becomes the third serving head of state to be targeted by an arrest warrant from the ICC – the others being Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi.
Mr Peskov described the charges as “outrageous and unacceptable”, noting that Russia like the USA, does not recognise the jurisdiction of the war crimes tribunal.
He added: “Accordingly, any decisions of this kind are null and void for the Russian Federation from the point of view of law.”