Remember all those sexy, shirtless photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin back in the 2000s? Let us jog your memory.
Back in the day, Putin wanted Russian citizens to think of him as a rugged, athletic outdoorsmen, and was often photographed swimming and horseback riding, among other activities.
The now-69-year old Putin was 47 when he took office, first as prime minister in 1999, and then in 2012 as president. But his health has failed in the years since, and a new report published by investigative Russian outlet Proekt earlier today found that the leader keeps multiple doctors on hand at all times, even keeping cancer specialists on call permanently.
Because of Putin's athleticism, we pretty much already knew his back and spine are wrecked. Proekt reports Putin sustained several sports injuries from falling off horses, and that during the early 2000s fell so badly he was temporarily stunned and couldn't get to his feet. In 2012, he was limping so noticeably during a TV appearance that the Kremlim instructed media outlets to use only still photos and cut all video footage of the president walking, and he has since been bowled over by a veteran ice hockey player during an exhibition.
That doesn't mean Putin doesn't receive treatment, though some of it is pretty woo-woo, including antler blood baths he supposedly takes. Other are more practical, and suggest that Putin may actually be struggling with thyroid cancer, since he regularly travels with a cadre of doctors and keeps a list of others on call at all times.
In 2019 Putin went skiing with Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko. According to Proekt's reporting, two intensive care specialists, a neurologist, a dermatovenerologist, two ENTs, and an oncology surgeon stayed at the exact same resort at the same time.
Oncologist-surgeon Evgeny Selivanov has spent 166 days with the president in four years of service, according to the report, and has been near Putin any time the president has disappeared from public view. Otolaryngologists Igor Esakov and Alexey Shcheglov are the only two doctors who fly to Putin more often than Selivanov.
That's significant, because diseases like thyroid cancer are usually diagnosed by an otolaryngologist. Then an oncologist and a surgeon help treat the patient.
It goes without saying that there's no shame in physical injuries or disabilities of any kind, and that chronic pain or illness shouldn't exclude anyone from leadership. But Putin and his counsel see admission of sickness as a sign of weakness, so the cadre of specialists is striking.
It's pretty sad that in 2022, a 69-year-old can't let the people he serves know he might be struggling with a serious illness. For both disability rights and visibility, it seems not much has changed since FDR's tenure.
And for someone with Putin's immense power, of course — never mind his involvement in the ongoing war in Ukraine — the idea that he might be struggling with serious health concerns is a matter of keen geopolitical interest.
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