KEY POINTS

  • Putin dismissed rumors about his health during a speech at the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum
  • Putin paraphrased a quote from Mark Twain wherein he responded to rumors of his death
  • Putin's speech comes nearly four months after the start of the war in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday addressed ongoing rumors about his health condition and misquoted Mark Twain in the process.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, rumors have swirled about Putin’s health. Some speculations claimed he was suffering from cancer, some said it was Parkinson’s disease, while others alleged the Russian leader only had three years to live.

Speaking at the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in front of Russian elites, Putin finally dismissed the health rumors as untrue by paraphrasing a popular misquote attributed to Samuel Langhorne Clemens, an American author known for his pen name Mark Twain.

“Like Mark Twain once said: ‘The rumors about my death were greatly exaggerated,’” Putin said during the question and answer session, per The Guardian.

The misquote was part of a response that Twain wrote to the New York Journal in 1897 in which he was addressing newspaper rumors that he was either gravely ill or already dead.

“The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration,” Twain wrote.

Rumors about Putin’s health have been around for years. However, speculations intensified following the war in Ukraine. It escalated after Russian investigative outlet Proekt claimed that a team of cancer doctors frequently visited the 69-year-old leader at his residences or accompanied him on trips. The outlet also claimed that oncology surgeon Yevgeny Selivanov has visited Putin’s Black Sea residence at least 35 times and spent more than 160 days near the president.

The report also named otolaryngologists Igor Esakov and Alexei Shcheglov as doctors who also frequently visited the Russian president. Shcheglov, in particular, was said to have seen Putin 59 times and spent over 280 days with him between 2016 and 2020.

Several videos that circulated on social media also appeared to show Putin’s foot twitching uncontrollably during a meeting with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, him “furiously gripping” a table for support during a meeting with RUSNANO Group CEO Sergei Kulikov and the Russian leader struggling to stand at a recent awards ceremony that was held at the Kremlin.

Putin’s speech on Friday comes nearly four months after he first announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Even now, with the business of government returning to normal in most of the world, Putin conducts most domestic business via video-link
Even now, with the business of government returning to normal in most of the world, Putin conducts most domestic business via video-link POOL via AFP / Mikhail Metzel
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