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A clip showing Putin twitching his foot set off new speculation after claims he is seriously ill

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon at the Kremlin on May 16, 2022.
  • Video showing Vladimir Putin twitching his foot set off new speculation about his health. 
  • The secretive leader's condition is under scrutiny after Ukraine claimed he is seriously ill.
  • Some believe illness could make him more reckless in the war in Ukraine and confronting the West. 
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

A clip showing Vladimir Putin twitching his leg in a meeting in Moscow with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon set off a new flurry of online speculation about the Russian president's health Monday. 

In the meeting, where the leaders discussed security issues in central Asia, Putin appears to jerk his foot several times. 

The evidence is slight, but was seized upon amid tensions with the West over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Clips from meetings where Putin was seen gripping a table or awkwardly moving his leg have also fuelled speculation about his health. 

Experts have weighed in with more credible information, with former British spy Christopher Steele on Sunday claiming that Russian sources had informed him that Putin was fatally ill.

A Ukrainian intelligence chief in an interview with Sky News over the weekend also claimed that Putin is in "very bad psychological and physical condition and he is very sick", and rejected the suggestion he was making the claims as part of Ukraine's information war with Russia. 

A Russian oligarch also said, in a recently-released secret recording, that he had been informed by Kremlin sources that Putin had blood cancer. 

No evidence has emerged to substantiate these claims. 

From action man, to rumours of failing health 

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rides a horse during his vacation outside the town of Kyzyl in Southern Siberia on August 3, 2009.

In his first decade in power, Putin sought to portray himself as a vigorous action man, riding a horse bare-chested, piloting a light aircraft, and vanquishing opponents on the hockey pitch in propaganda stunts. 

But the Russian leader, who is approaching 70, now casts a very different figure in his public appearances.

Putin holds meetings with foreign leaders across a vast table, and has appeared bloated and agitated when pictured with top Kremlin officials and allies.

Respected Russian investigative outlet Proekt, in a recent article detailed Putin's health problem during his presidency.

It claimed the Kremlin closely controls what footage is released of Putin to cover any abnormalities and obscure times that he is absent from public life for medical treatment. It said he suffers back problems, and may have been treated for thyroid illness. 

In recent weeks, there has been speculation that Putin's jerky movements and bloated appearance indicate he may have Parkinson's, though experts on the disease expressed skepticism towards that claim in comments to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Mark Galeotti, one of the UK's leading experts on Russia's security services, in a recent article for The Spectator cautioned against some of the wilder speculation about Putin's health, that he said was indicative of wishful thinking. 

"The idea of Putin succumbing to some malady is, like that other topic of over-heated speculation, the palace coup, often a hope for some quick, magic answer to the West's problems," he wrote. 

"Yet beware magical thinking. The prevailing medical opinions appear to be that whatever Putin may have, it is not likely to lead to imminent death or incapacitation. It may well be that he is ill enough to be more reckless and less concerned about the long-term risks, but not so ill to quickly be out of the picture."



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