- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Russia’s vigorous-living, photo op-loving president has been lying low for the past few weeks. Putin reportedly rarely leaves his official residence, has postponed planned trips to Bulgaria, India and Turkey, and is sending Dmitry Medvedev in his place to a summit in Turkmenistan.
Naturally, the rumor mills have been running wild. According to one media report, he was injured in September’s ultralight crane flight. Other sources say he needs back surgery and has been seen wearing a brace. At the recent APEC summit in Vladivostok, he reportedly told Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that he’s on a restricted diet.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed this talk:
“He was suffering from some muscle pain then,” Peskov said, as reported by the Interfax news agency. “Actually, we have never tried to conceal it because any athlete has lots of injuries, which, however, do not mean any restrictions of his activities.”
It’s not at all unusual for leaders to conceal illness or injury, but for one whose public image is as tied to health and vigor as Putin, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t want to be seen in public looking physically weakened.
It’s not clear if this is at all related, but Putin has also canceled his annual live telethon in which he takes direct phone calls from Russian citizens. We may be seeing a bit less of the president in his third term.