What’s going on with the health of Russian President Vladimir Putin?
There’s lot of speculation: He’s mentally unbalanced, he has Parkinson’s Disease or he has thyroid cancer.
Putin is constantly in the company of Dr. Yevgeny Selivanov, reports Project (“Proekt”), a Russian media outlet banished from its homeland, according to the UK’s Daily Mail.
The title of Selivanov’s doctoral thesis reflects his medical specialty: “Peculiarities of diagnostics and surgical treatment of elderly and senile patients with thyroid cancer.”
Another physician, Dr. Alexey Shcheglov, a surgeon with ear, nose and throat training, hovers so close to Putin “that during public events he allegedly gets into joint photographs with the head of state,” Project said.
Moscow surgeon Selivanov has flown at least 35 times to Sochi, Putin’s resort home on the Black Sea.
Putin watchers also have noted the president has a keen interest in thyroid cancer.
In 2020 he met with Ivan Dedov, boss of Putin’s 36-year-old geneticist daughter, and who heads the National Medical Research Center for Endocrinology, Project said.
From Dedov the president learned of Tyrogin, a new hormonal drug effective at heading off metastases following surgery.
Is there enough evidence to indicate Putin has health problems?
Putin directly asked if Tyrogin had a “recovery of 95-98 percent,” according to Project. The answer he received: Yes.
“There is indeed talk in medical circles about the president’s health problems,” Project said. “Especially these conversations intensified in the early autumn of last year, when Putin behaved especially strangely.”
His strange behavior was manifest Sept. 13, when he resumed meeting the public following a long isolation due to COVID.
Meeting with a group of Paralympians, Putin suddenly said he had to resume isolation because there were too many people sick with COVID.
Even members of his entourage were taken aback at Putin’s behavior. He resumed isolation through the rest of the month, taking part in elections from his office.
“Whether the president was then undergoing some kind of medical manipulation is unknown, but after that he began to communicate with people at a very great distance – sitting on opposite sides of huge tables,” Project said.
Putin has disappeared five times between 2012 and 2021 — disappearances that were said to be medically related, with problems seeming to accelerate between 2016 and 2017.
Then, there were as many as five physicians visiting him at his Sochi home.
One of them, Dr. Dmitry Verbovoy, was an expert in injuries, poisonings and acute illnesses.
Another, Dr. Konstantin Sim, an orthopedic traumatologist, may have been treating Putin for injuries suffered while playing ice hockey. The same day Sim was with Putin, other doctors included an ear, nose and throat specialist and an infectious disease specialist.
In November of 2016, as many as a dozen doctors were living at a sanatorium near Putin’s home, including at least two neurosurgeons along with a rehabilitation specialist.
Shcheglov visited Putin 59 times in a 282-day period. He is reported to be especially capable of detecting thyroid problems, especially those entailing cancer.
Dr. Igor Esakov, an ENT specialist, made 38 trips in 152 days to see Putin. Cancer surgeon Selivanov made 35 trips in 166 days.
So what are Putin’s health problems? How do they affect his judgment? All kinds of experts speculate.
Samuel Greene, director of the Russia Institute and professor of Russian politics at King’s College London, notes Putin’s isolation.
“It does seem like we’re seeing a Putin that is more isolated,” Greene said.
“It’s not just about, you know, sitting at the end of a very long table of people who are supposed to be advising him.
“It does feel like some of the messages he needs to hear are not coming across, either because people are unwilling to express them, or because, 20 years into his reign, he trusts his own judgment more than he trusts the judgment of those around him,” according to Greene.
And what of the increased puffiness in his face? Could be just plastic surgery. Cosmetic surgeon Steve Falek of New Jersey believes Putin has had some.
“My thought is that he’s had either a full facelift or a mini facelift,” Falek said.
“I can guarantee you — or pretty much guarantee you — that he’s had his lower eyelids done and I would also suspect that he’s had some cheek filler done at the same time.”
News Nation showed photos indicating how much Putin’s face has bloated in just two years and noted how public figures like Nancy Pelosi have speculated on Putin’s health.
And there is ongoing speculation Putin has Parkinson’s disease.
Historian and author David Satter, an expert on Russia, said the health issue may be a smokescreen.
“The reports could even be Russian disinformation to give us the impression that he’s mentally ill and therefore dangerous.
“We just don’t know and we just have to work with the facts that we have. The whole decision to invade Ukraine by any normal measure was irrational and it was somewhat different than decisions he’s made in the past, which were very carefully calculated.
“But that’s all we have. We’re not doctors … and any information that comes out of the Kremlin from so-called Kremlin sources could be tainted.”
Satter said if we think we are dealing with an individual who is crazy it would cause us to be more cautious than we are.
So much of the speculation stems from the belief that Putin is sick or is crazy. From the perspective of the West, his decision to invade Ukraine seems irrational.
However, one who might have a contrary insight on Putin’s behavior is John Mearsheimer, a University of Chicago political science professor.
He has long been a critic of what he has termed “liberal hegemony,” the inclination of Western nations to attempt to spread their viewpoints throughout the world, no matter the consequences.
“The Russians made it unequivocally clear at the time that they viewed this as an existential threat, and they drew a line in the sand,” Mearsheimer said.
“Nevertheless, what has happened with the passage of time is that we have moved forward to include Ukraine in the West to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s border.”
As a result, no matter what his health, what may seem irrational to Westerners may make sense to Putin, since he’s doing exactly what he said he would do.