Russian foreign minister forced to deny Vladimir Putin is seriously ill
Russia's foreign minister has been forced to issue a rare denial that Vladimir Putin is seriously ill.
Putin's health is rarely discussed in Russia but the denial came as rumours spread that Putin's ability to lead had been impacted by his health during a crucial time for his country as it engages in the war in Ukraine and is beset by international sanctions.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told French broadcaster TF1 "I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment."
He said that Putin appeared in public every day.
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"You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his speeches," Lavrov said in comments released by the Russian foreign ministry.
The Russian president turns 70 this year and has in charge of his country in some way or another for more than 20 years.
The rumours have been swirling for months, with various western and Ukrainian media claiming they had spoken to senior members of the Russian government on the condition of anonymity about the president's health.
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An FSB officer (Russian secret service) told the Sunday Mirror: “We are told he is suffering from headaches and when he appears on TV he needs pieces of paper with everything written in huge letters to read what he’s going to say.
“They are so big each page can only hold a couple of sentences. His eyesight is seriously worsening.”
The spy added that Putin’s limbs are “now also shaking uncontrollably”.
Other reports have suggested doctors have told Putin he only has around three years to live.
An unnamed oligarch has also been recorded saying the Russian president has blood cancer.
A recording where he was discussing Putin's health was published by New Lines, a US magazine.
So far no one has gone publically on record to say Putin does have blood cancer.