Images show Vladimir Putin has gone from a macho strongman to a bloated butcher who struggled to walk in just three years.
Since first becoming Russia’s president in 2000, Vlad has prided himself on being a strongman, photographing himself riding shirtless, participating in judo shows, tracking tigers and exercising.
But in the past three years, he has changed beyond recognition, his haggard face bloated and his swagger giving way to a feeble stance.
Over the years, many photos have been taken for publicity purposes, including one of him inspecting a Siberian tiger satellite tracker in 2008.
The most enduring of a series of photos from 2009 showing Putin riding topless on a fishing expedition shows Putin’s desire to be seen as a tough guy.
He’s also discreetly photographed with other “tough guys”, such as while riding with Russia’s notorious “Night Wolves” motorcycle gang in 2011.
Other photos published by Russian state-controlled media over the years include the president working out at the home gym at his summer residence in Sochi and participating in judo demonstrations.
In 2017, he was still looking relatively young when he posed for a photo with model and Miss Russia winner Violetta Igoshina.
Putin’s seemingly timeless appearance has sparked years of rumors about the Russian leader’s regular cosmetic surgery.
In 2017, Canadian facial cosmetic surgeon Philip Solomon told the National Post: “I presume he’s done fillers and Botox, from the smoothness around his forehead and the crow’s feet around his eyes. And the volume around the cheeks shows that.”
Another cosmetic surgeon, Stephen Mulholland, told the publication he believed Putin had undergone three key surgeries.
These are injectable dermal fillers, Botox, and laser resurfacing.
Such procedures require steady maintenance, and Putin needs to return to the operating room about twice a year for additional injections.
He added that the Russian president appeared to have undergone a series of major treatments between 2012 and 2014, around the time he divorced his first wife, Lyudmila.
The most notable change to Putin’s face, 69, is the way it’s filled, making it appear more rounded.
In just three short years, Putin’s face has changed dramatically. The former Russian leader seems to have gone backwards. Now his face is puffy and his demeanor has changed.
Photos from the Kremlin’s year-end speech released in 2020 showed Putin in a very different shape from a year earlier, with his face even more puffy.
Gone is the confident, swaggering world statesman, replaced by a lazy and weak tyrant.
He is afraid of aging
Last year, he played an ice hockey game in St. Petersburg and looked older than ever.
His appearance has come under greater scrutiny since the start of the Ukrainian war, with rumors that he is undergoing cancer treatment.
In a recent video, Putin appeared to gag and pant as he grabbed the table for support during a meeting with ally Sergei Chemezov.
While a former British spy claims “cancer-riddled” Putin is often surrounded by doctors.
Rumors that President Putin is seriously ill have been circulating for some time, and in March the Kremlin was even forced to issue a statement insisting he was in good health.
In the weeks leading up to the invasion of Ukraine, he also became increasingly erratic.
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In 2014, Dr. David Hidalgo, a New York-based surgeon, told Vanity Fair that the theory about Putin’s so-called fillers was not just vanity, but the core of his own paranoia.
He said he believed Putin would never agree to be placed under.
In 2010, he appeared at trade talks in Kyiv with what appeared to be bruises on his cheekbones and under his eyes, a telltale sign of filler injections.
At the time, his spokesman denied the allegations, blaming the so-called dark circles on the unfortunate lights and Putin’s busy travel schedule.
A 2015 documentary, “Men Putin,” claimed that the Russian leader was “afraid of growing old.”
In a program broadcast on Germany’s ZDF channel, Putin’s biographer, Ben Juda, claimed that he was “fear of physical infirmity, of old age”.
Rumour has it that Putin also used steroids, possibly to maintain his tough guy image.
As a side effect of his alleged steroid use, Putin has also become prone to perverse outbursts of anger as a quick planned invasion of Ukraine turns into a bloody protracted war.
He denounced the Ukrainian leader as a “drug addict” and a “Nazi” while raising the specter of an apocalyptic nuclear war, seemingly unconcerned with the consequences for his own country.
“Perhaps it’s time to revisit our assumption that the Russian president is a cold-blooded politician who makes logical, even highly unpopular, decisions,” Paul Taylor wrote on Politico in February.
Taylor also noted that Putin’s mindset was called into question in early February when he forced visiting French and German leaders to sit at the other end of a 13-foot table.
It was described as a Covid-19 precaution, but that didn’t stop him from hugging ally Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Fiona Hill, a former member of the National Security Council specializing in Russia and Europe, also commented on Putin’s appearance during a meeting with St. Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov last month.
“Putin doesn’t look good, his face is quite puffy,” she said. “We know he complained about a back problem.
“Even if it wasn’t worse than that, it could have been that he was taking high doses of steroids, or something else.”
She added: “He may have a sense that time is moving forward – after all, it has been 22 years and after that time there is very little chance that the Russian leader will leave voluntarily or through elections.
“Most leaders either leave like Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who may leave because of the mass protests, or they die in office.
“In modern times, the only person who has been Russia’s leader longer than Putin is Stalin, who died while in office.”
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