Questions are mounting about the health of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a pair of videos appear to show him bloated and unsteady on his feet.
In footage said to be from a midnight mass for Orthodox Easter, Putin appeared to be frail and shaky at the service. Putin stood alongside Moscow’s mayor at Christ the Savior Cathedral and seemed unsure of his footing as he chewed his lip distractedly.
Observers noted Putin appeared to be swaying during the Russian Orthodox mass and also seemed bloated. Some opposition media in both Russia and Ukraine accuse the Kremlin of using footage from last year’s Easter service to fake the cathedral visit. The suit Putin is wearing as he holds a red candle appears to be the same, though the tie’s color is different.
Another video just released by the Kremlin Thursday shows a 12-minute clip of the Russian president sitting at a table with his defense minister Sergei Shoigu. The two are discussing the siege of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where thousands continue to hold out in the tunnels of a massive steel works.
The 69-year-old Putin tightly grips the table with his right hand during the entire video, his shoulders are hunched and he regularly taps his toes. Analysts note gripping the table may have been an attempt to keep his hand from visibly shaking, though he could not stop his foot from tapping. The speculation is the president has Parkinson’s disease.
Some analysts point to “unhinged television ramblings” and how quickly he heightened his nation’s nuclear status in the early days of the Ukraine invasion. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserted that while he “was always calculating and cold,” the president now appears different. She went on to describe Putin as “erratic.”
There is also speculation that the unusual bloating in his face may be a reaction to taking steroids as treatment for an unknown condition. Whatever the reality is, it is of utmost importance that Western leaders factor both Putin’s physical and mental health into forthcoming decisions. An irrational and shaky finger on the Russian nuclear trigger is not to be taken lightly.