Russian President Vladimir Putin looked very frail and unsteady in video footage from midnight mass service for Orthodox Easter, fueling the fire of rumors that have been circulating about his increasingly failing health.

Putin appeared to chew on his lip and seemed unsure of and unsteady in his footing standing in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral with Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin, in a Mass led by Orthodox leader Patriarch Kirill, who has been a supporter of Putin’s war on Ukraine. Many viewers commented that he also looked nervous/anxious as he fidgeted and seemed distracted.  Reuters reported that Putin did not join in the congregational response during the mass, declining to respond ‘he has truly risen.’

via Twitter

Last year, the Kremlin denied reports that Putin was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, and those rumors have flared again in light of what was going with his mouth, as dry mouth can be a symptom of that condition.

Further rumors have been circling around Putin’s physical and mental fitness after he was seen gripping a table and tapping his foot frantically during a meeting in recent weeks.

The UK’s Daily Mail shared this timeline of the events fueling the speculation of Putin’s declining health:

November 2012: Business trips and long-distance flights of the president are canceled, some of Putin’s meetings shown by the Kremlin turn out to be ‘canned food’

March 5 – 15, 2015: Putin does not appear in public, all meetings are ‘canned’ – in other words pre-recorded events were shown with the pretence they were in real time

August 9-16, 2017: The President, with journalists, visits Abkhazia and Sochi, and then for a week the Kremlin publishes only ‘canned food’

February 2018: In the midst of an election campaign, the president cancels public events. Peskov admits that the head of state ‘had a cold’

September 13-29, 2021: Putin goes into ‘self-isolation’, all events are held via video link

Vladimir Putin via Flickr / openDemocracy

A body language expert from Texas Tech University, told reporters that Putin appears to be in pain in many recent appearances. Erik Bucy told The Sun:

“An able-bodied president would not need to keep himself propped up with a hand held out for leverage and would not be concerned about keeping both feet planted on the ground.”

Bucy continued, noting that Putin’s legs appeared quite thin, suggesting weight or muscle loss.

Former British government defense and NATO adviser Gwythian Prins concurred with Bucy:

‘I am persuaded by a lot of medical advice that he is an ill man and the most persuasive diagnosis is that he has early Parkinsonia. I happen to live with a clinical neurological psychologist, my wife who has spent 30 years dealing with people who have had degenerative brain diseases.”

Prins added that people living with Parkinson’s typically show ‘all or nothing thinking,’  stopping them from taking in information in a rational way, which could explain some of Putin’s thinking regarding the Ukraine invasion.

Ukrainian President Zelensky via Flickr / Just Chick’s With a Camera

Putin’s appearance at church stood in stark contrast with Ukrainian president Zelensky, who addressed his nation with an inspiring message of unity and hope. Speaking from the 1,000-year-old Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, he said that his country will overcome the darkness of the Russian aggression and vowed that no ‘wickedness’ will destroy Ukraine:

‘Today, we still believe in the new victory of Ukraine and we are all convinced that we will not be destroyed by any horde or wickedness.”

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Christopher Powell