Vladimir Putin appeared to walk with a limp and sat with a blanket over his lap during Victory Day commemorations in Moscow today, raising fresh doubts over his health.
The Russian leader, 69, attended the event – which commemorates Nazi Germany‘s surrender in 1945 – to give a speech during which he projected an image of Russian strength and military might despite the faltering war in Ukraine.
But at several points – including as he left a speaking podium and went to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider to lay a wreath – Putin appeared to be walking with a heavy step, as if trying to disguise a limp.
And, during the parade itself, he was seen sitting with a heavy blanket across his knees despite geriatric war veterans being sat around him with their laps uncovered.
On their own either incident would be easy enough to dismiss – but taken together they will do little to dispel persistent rumours that Putin is suffering health issues.
Vladimir Putin (centre) watched part of Monday’s Victory Day parade in Moscow with a blanket draped over his lap, while geriatric war veterans sat around him uncovered
The 69-year-old appeared to be walking with a limp as he descended from a podium and walked to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Putin’s face appeared puffy, in an appearance that will do little to dispel rumours that he is suffering from poor health
During his appearance in front of the nation today, Putin clutched a portrait of his father Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, but appeared to look unwell
He watched on the Victory Day military parade in Moscow’s Red Square where he appeared bloated and ill at ease
The strongman has been battling rumours he is suffering from cancer or Parkinson’s and has disappeared from the public eye on occasion
What’s wrong with Putin?
Rumours have been circling for years that Putin is suffering from health problems, and they have intensified since he launched his brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Critics and Kremlin sources have indicated he may be suffering from cancer of Parkinson’s, supported by footage showing the leader shaking uncontrollably and gripping a table for support.
He has also disappeared from the public eye for weeks at a time, with suggestions he is undergoing surgery.
Valery Solovey, professor at Moscow State Institute of Foreign Affairs first hinted at Putin’s health problems, said in 2020 that Putin had undergone surgery for cancer.
Another unnamed source suggested the operation was on Putin’s abdomen.
He said: ‘One is of a psycho-neurological nature, the other is a cancer problem.
‘If anyone is interested in the exact diagnosis, I’m not a doctor, and I have no ethical right to reveal these problems.
‘The second diagnosis is a lot, lot more dangerous than the first named diagnosis as Parkinson’s does not threaten physical state, but just limits public appearances.
‘Based on this information people will be able to make a conclusion about his life horizon, which wouldn’t even require specialist medical education.’
The Kremlin has consistently denied that there is anything wrong with Putin’s health.
Others have previously noted his ‘gunslinger’s gait’ – a clearly reduced right arm swing compared to his left, giving him a lilting swagger.
An asymmetrically reduced arm swing is a classic feature of Parkinson’s and can manifest in ‘clinically intact subjects with a predisposition to later develop’ the disease, according to the British Medical Journal.
In February, Putin was seen with a shaking hand as he firmly gripped the side of his chair for support.
The clip, which was taken on February 18, just before the onset of his invasion of Ukraine, shows him welcoming fellow strongman Alexander Lukashenko at the Kremlin.
He pulls his trembling hand into his body in an attempt to quell the shakes, but then he almost stumbles as he unsteadily walks towards Lukashenko.
Later, Putin sits on a chair but is unable to remain still, constantly fidgeting and tapping his feet while he grips onto the arm for support.
In a meeting last month with defence minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin’s poor posture and his apparently bloated face and neck fuelled the speculation.
Video showed Putin speaking to Shoigu whilst gripping the edge of the table with his right hand – so hard that it appears white – and tapping his foot consistently.
Two years before he decided to invade Ukraine, rumours began swirling about Putin’s health including suggestions he had undergone cancer surgery.
Valery Solovei, a political analyst and prominent Putin critic, began spreading the rumour in late 2020 while also suggesting he was suffering from Parkinson’s.
The rumours gained such traction that the Kremlin was forced to go on record and deny them, with Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisting his boss was in ‘excellent health’ and any rumour to the contrary was ‘complete nonsense’.
But the whispering has steadfastly refused to die out and has intensified since the war in Ukraine began, with critics suggesting that Putin looks unwell in TV appearances and is noticeably puffy around his face.
Leaked footage of a meeting with Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko in the early stages of the war also appeared to show pronounced arm and leg tremours.
Shaking is one of the main symptoms of Parkinson’s – a condition that Hitler is thought to have suffered from towards the end of the Second World War.
As Putin sat down with Lukashenko he was seen gripping the arm of his chair – perhaps in an attempt to head off any more shaking.
He then pulled a similar pose – this time gripping the edge of a table – while meeting defence minister Sergei Shoigu a few weeks later.
Then came an Easter Sunday mass during which the Russian leader made unusual fidgeting motions with his lips while listening to the service.
He could be seen making the same lip motions following Monday’s Victory Day parade, as he walked with Shoigu to lay a wreath.
During his speech, Putin blamed Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on western policies and said it was necessary to ward off potential aggression.
Speaking at a military parade in Red Square to mark the Second World War victory over Nazi Germany, Mr Putin drew parallels between the Red Army’s fighting against the Nazi troops and the Russian forces’ action in Ukraine.
While lambasting the West, Mr Putin gave no indication of a shift in strategies or made any indication he is going to declare a broad mobilisation, as some in Ukraine and the West fear.
Addressing the phalanxes of elite Russian troops filling Red Square, Mr Putin said the campaign in Ukraine was needed to avert ‘a threat that was absolutely unacceptable to us (that) has been methodically created next to our borders’.
‘The danger was rising by the day,’ he claimed, adding ‘Russia has given a pre-emptive response to an aggression’ in a ‘forced, timely and the only correct decision by a sovereign, powerful and independent country’.
The Russian leader has repeatedly accused Ukraine of harbouring aggressive intentions with support from the US and its allies – claims Ukrainian and western officials have denied.
In his speech at the parade, Mr Putin again scolded the West for failing to heed Russian demands for security guarantees and a roll-back to Nato’s expansion, arguing it left Moscow no other choice but to attack Ukraine.
The Russian leader said Russian troops in Ukraine are fighting for the country’s security and called a minute of silence to honour the soldiers killed combat.
Mr Putin said some of the troops taking part in the parade have previously fought in Ukraine.
Monday’s Victory Parade was designed to project an image of Russian strength, despite the war in Ukraine grinding towards a stalemate
A Russian intercontinental ballistic missile – designed to carry nukes – drives through the Red Square as part of the Victory Day parade
Putin used a speech to say the West had been planning to invade Russian territory and that going to war in Ukraine was the only option
Thousands of Russian troops formed up in the Red Square as Russia marked the day Nazi Germany surrendered in 1945, marking the end of the Second World War in Europe
Putin used his speech to re-frame the war in Ukraine as a war against Western aggression and told his troops they are fighting for the security of Russia against what he claimed were plans to invade
A T-34 tank – the main battle tank of the Soviet military during the Second World War – flies a Soviet banner as it processes through the Red Square during Victory Day events in Moscow
A Soviet-era motorbike driven by soldiers dressed in Second World War uniforms and emblazoned on the side with the Ukraine ‘Z’ war symbol takes part in a parade in Vladivostok earlier in the day
Putin gripped the armrest of his chair during a meeting with Alexander Lukashenko earlier this year, after footage showed his arm shaking
Putin also gripped the edge of a table during a recent meeting with his defence chief, perhaps covering up the signs of a tremour
During an Easter Sunday mass, Putin fidgeted with his lips – and pulled a similar expression during Monday’s Victory Day parade
He said the troops in Ukraine have been ‘fighting for the Motherland so that no one will forget the lessons of World War Two and there will be no place in the world for hangmen, executioners and the Nazis’.
The Victory Day that Russia marks on May 9 is the country’s most important holiday, celebrated with military parades and fireworks across the county.
The Soviet Union lost 27 million people in the Second World War, which it calls the Great Patriotic War.
The conflict, which devastated the country and caused enormous suffering, has left a deep scar in the national psyche.
Some in Ukraine and the West expected Mr Putin to use his speech at the parade to switch from calling the attack on Ukraine a ‘special military operation’ to acknowledging it as a war.
Mr Putin did not make any such shift in rhetoric or give any indication that the Kremlin may change its strategy and declare a broad mobilisation to beef up its ranks.
The Kremlin has focussed on Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas, where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014.
That conflict erupted weeks after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
The Russian military has re-armed and re-supplied its forces withdrawn from areas near Kyiv and other regions in Ukraine’s north-east and moved them to Donbas in an apparent attempt to encircle and destroy the most capable and seasoned Ukrainian troops concentrated there.
Russia celebrated Victory Day beyond its borders today, but celebrations in Poland did not go according to plan.
The Russian ambassador, Sergei Andreev, was doused in red paint and branded a ‘fascist’ by activists while laying flowers at a war memorial in Warsaw.
Sergei Andreev, Russia’s ambassador to Poland, was doused in red paint by pro-Ukraine demonstrators as he tried to lay wreaths at the main memorial to Soviet soldiers who died in the Second World War in Warsaw, Poland
Andreev arrived at the memorial with his security detail to lay a wreath on Victory Day – which marks the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945 – when they were pelted with paint (pictured, a bodyguard is doused in paint)
Andreev’s embassy had warned just two days ago that the wreath-laying would not go ahead due to safety concerns and did not make it clear why the decision was changed – though the incident was immediately picked up by pro-Kremlin media
Andreev wipes red paint out of his eyes after being covered in it by pro-Ukraine protesters surrounding the Soviet war memorial in Warsaw, Poland, during Victory Day commemorations
Andreev and his entourage (pictured behind) were doused while trying to reach the memorial as part of a wreath-laying event on Victory Day, marking the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945
He was blocked from entering the cemetery by a crowd that waved Ukrainian flags in his face and chanted ‘fascist’ before people began throwing things at him.
Andreev and his security detail were hit multiple times with projectiles before one demonstrator threw a bag of red paint into his face.
The delegation where prevented from reaching the war memorial at the centre of the cemetery or laying the wreaths they had brought with them.
Instead, police had to be called to escort them away. Andreev said later that he had not been injured during the fracas.
Poland – which has a long and bloody history with Soviet Russia – has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since the early days of the war and has been on the receiving end of threats by Kremlin propagandists as a result.
Despite the threats, the Polish government has continued to supply weapons to Ukraine including sending more than 200 T-72 tanks to bolster its armed forces.
Russian state media was quick to seize on the incident in Warsaw as evidence of what it claims is growing anti-Russian sentiment in the West, motivated by what the Kremlin insists is Nazism.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Moscow’s foreign ministry, posted about the incident on her Telegram channel – saying that ‘fans of neo-Nazism have once again bared their faces, and it is bloody.’
Participants hold a giant St. George’s Ribbon during a ceremony in Mariupol, marking the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany
Kremlin puppet Denis Pushilin marches through Mariupol parading the traditional ribbon of St George today
In Melitopol (pictured), pro-Russian supporters waved Soviet and Russian flags for the military parade
‘The demolition of monuments to the heroes of the Second World War, the desecration of graves, and now the disruption of the flower-laying ceremony on a holy day for every decent person prove the already obvious – the West has set a course for the reincarnation of fascism,’ she messaged to followers.
In the port city brought to ruin by persistent Russian shelling and blockades, Kremlin puppet Denis Pushilin marched through the streets waving the traditional orange and black ribbon of Saint George associated with the military celebrations.
The leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic wore a Z symbol on his chest as he chanted with fellow senior pro-Russian officials and even lit a torch at Mariupol’s memorial for the victims of fascism in a display of breathtaking arrogance.
Similar Victory Day rallies were held in other cities including Melitopol, Energodar, Kherson and Staroblesk to rub Ukrainians’ noses in the Russian invasion.
Soldiers and separatists marched through the Russian-controlled streets waving flags and chanting in support of Putin and the motherland.
The Kremlin has made unproven claims it is carrying out a ‘deNazification’ mission in Ukraine which is overrun with far-right nationalists.
Service members of pro-Russian troops stand guard during today’s ceremony in Mariupol
In Berdyansk, Zaporozhye region, a huge Russian flag was paraded through the streets today
An elderly woman holding balloons and flowers becomes emotional during the celebrations in Mariupol
The celebrations are held in commemoration of the Soviet Union’s defeat over Nazi Germany in 1945
Yet throughout the barbaric invasion, Putin’s forces have shelled hospitals and schools, destroyed Holocaust memorial sites, butchered and raped civilians, and even set up ‘filtration camps’ which have chilling echoes to Nazi concentration camps.
Just hours ahead of the highly-anticipated parade, hackers targeted Russian TV with the message: ‘The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of their children is on your hands. TV and the authorities lie. No to war.’
The message appeared on schedules and programmes including children’s TV shows, affecting viewers across the country.
It impacted online viewers of various channels transmitted by MTS mobile operator, NTV Plus, Rostelecom and Wink.
One parent in Tyumen, Siberia, said: ‘The [TV] provider “delighted” my child with such a message on children’s channels, and then it turned out that the same thing happened on the other channels.
‘The message appears in the description of any programme.’
The hack also hit Russian defence ministry channel TV Zvezda for viewers accessing via Yandex search engine.
Russian TV has been hacked with the message ‘the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of their children is on your hands’
The ‘No to War’ message also warned viewers that ‘TV and the authorities lie’ as it appeared on schedules and programmes including children’s TV shows (pictured)
It impacted online viewers of various channels transmitted by MTS mobile operator, NTV Plus, Rostelecom and Wink
The hack also hit Russian defence ministry channel TV Zvezda for viewers accessing via Yandex search engine
Throughout the war, hackers have been targeting Russia to spread the truth of Putin’s barbaric invasion to his brainwashed population
‘A cyberattack was carried out on Russian TV broadcasting channels, because of which subscribers could have extremist inscriptions in the broadcast grid,’ said MTS in Siberia.
‘Now our IT specialists are promptly eliminating the consequences of the hack so that subscribers can receive services and watch TV programs and movies as quickly as possible.’
A viewer called Olga Ivanova said: ‘I have NTV Plus satellite TV and the same s*** is happening there on every channel.’
She said: ‘It is not on all MTS channels but on many for several hours.
‘I switched on TV at 7am, it was already like that, switched off only at 11.’
The source of the attack in support of Ukraine was not immediately clear.
Former Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak said: ‘At night and in the morning, residents of Russia who wanted to watch festive TV program stumbled upon such messages.
‘At least [those who use] MTS, NTV-plus, Rostelecom, and Wink.
‘I wonder who exactly was hacked. Whose head will fly off his shoulders?’
One source claimed: ‘This is a built-in player in smart TV…. there’s a Ukrainian code.
‘They are being manipulated.
‘In my Samsung, he has been replacing some IPTV channels with central Russian ones for a long time and is chasing Ukrainian propaganda.’
Throughout the war, hackers have been targeting Russia to spread the truth of Putin’s barbaric invasion to his brainwashed population.