VLADIMIR Putin has descended from a macho strongman to a bloated butcher who struggles to walk in the space of just three years, pictures reveal.
Since first becoming Russia’s president in 2000, Vlad has prided himself on his strongman image, having photographed himself riding horses shirtless, taking part in judo demonstrations, tracking tigers, and working out.
But in the past three years, he has become unrecognizable, with his previously gaunt face turning bloated, and his swagger giving way to a feeble, slumped-over stance.
Many pictures have been taken over the years for propaganda purposes, including a 2008 photo of him checking a satellite tracker on a Siberian tiger.
One of the most enduring images demonstrating Putin’s desperation to be seen as a tough guy is a 2009 series of photos showing him topless on a horse while on a fishing expedition.
He has also been careful to surround himself with other “hard men” for photo ops, such as in 2011 when he went for a ride with Russia’s notorious ‘Night Wolves’ motorbike gang.
Other photos released by Russia’s state-controlled media over the years include the president working out in a home gym at his summer residence in Sochi and taking part in judo demonstrations.
In 2017, he still appeared relatively youthful as he posed for a selfie with model and Miss Russia winner Violetta Igoshina.
Putin’s seemingly ageless looks have sparked years of rumors that the Russian leader has had regular cosmetic surgery.
In 2017, Canadian facial cosmetic surgeon Philip Solomon told the National Post: “I would speculate that he’s had filler and Botox done, and this is evident by smoothness around his forehead and the crow’s feet around his eyes and volume along the cheeks.”
Another cosmetic surgeon, Stephen Mulholland, told the publication that he believed Putin had received three key procedures.
These are injectable skin fillers, Botox, and laser skin resurfacing.
Such procedures require steady maintenance, and Putin would need to return to the surgery for additional injections around twice a year.
He added that the Russian president appeared to have undergone a major set of treatments between 2012 and 2014, around the time he was divorcing his first wife, Lyudmila.
The most striking change in the 69-year-old Putin’s face is how it has filled out, giving it a much rounder appearance.
In just three years, Putin’s appearance has drastically altered, and where once the Russian leader seemed to be ageing in reverse, his face now appears puffy while his demeanour has also changed.
Pictures released by the Kremlin in 2020 of his end-of-year address show a drastically different Putin from just a year earlier, with his face appearing far puffier.
Gone is the confident, swaggering world statesman, and in its place is a slouching and feeble tyrant.
He is afraid of ageing
While last year, he took part in an ice hockey match in St Petersburg, looking older than ever before.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, his appearance has come under much greater scrutiny, amid rumors he is undergoing treatment for cancer.
In a recent video, Putin seemed to retch and splutter as he gripped the table for support during talks with ally Sergey Chemezov.
While an ex-Brit spy has claimed “cancer-riddled” Putin is constantly surrounded by doctors.
Rumours have swirled for some time that President Putin is suffering from a serious illness, and in March, the Kremlin was even forced to issue a statement, insisting that he was in good health.
His behavior was also increasingly erratic in the weeks leading up to the invasion of Ukraine.
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Theories about Putin’s alleged fillers go beyond mere vanity, and to the heart of his own paranoid psychology, New York-based surgeon Dr David Hidalgo told Vanity Fair in 2014.
He said that he believes Putin would never consent to be put under.
In 2010, he appeared at trade negotiations in Kyiv with what appeared to be bruises on his cheekbones and under his eyes, an apparent sign of filler injections.
At the time his spokespeople denied the, blaming the supposed black eye on unfortunate lighting and Putin’s heavy travel schedule.
A 2015 documentary, “Putin the Man”, claimed that the Russian leader is “terrified of growing old”.
On the programme, which aired on German channel ZDF, Putin’s biographer Ben Judah claimed that he is “afraid of physical decay, he is afraid of ageing”.
Putin is also rumored to have used steroids, possibly as a way to maintain his tough-guy image.
As a side-effect of his alleged steroid use, Putin has also become prone to uncharacteristic angry outbursts as the planned speedy invasion of Ukraine has turned into a drawn-out, bloody war.
He has denounced Ukrainian leaders as “drug-takers” and “Nazis”, while raising the spectre of an apocalyptic nuclear war, with seemingly no concern for the consequences for his own country.
Writing in Politico in February, Paul Taylor said: “It may be time to revisit our assumption that the Russian president is a cold-blooded statesman taking logical, if deeply undesirable, decisions.”
Taylor also noted that earlier in February, Putin’s state of mind was called into question when he forced visiting French and German leaders to sit at the other end of a 13-foot table.
This was described as a Covid-19 precaution, but this didn’t stop him from embracing ally Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus.
Fiona Hill, a former member of the US National Security Council specializing in Russian and European affairs also commented on Putin’s appearance during a meeting with St Petersburg governor Alexander Beglov last month.
“Putin’s not looking so great, he’s been rather puffy-faced,” she said. “We know that he has about having back issues.
“Even if it’s not something worse than that, it could be that he’s taking high doses of steroids, or there may be something else.”
She added: “He may have a sense that time is marching on – it’s 22 years, after all, and the likelihood after that kind of time of a Russian leader leaving voluntarily or through elections is pretty slim.
“Most leaders leave either like Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko thought that he might leave, as the result of massive protests, or they die in office.
“The only other person who has been Russian leader in modern times longer than Putin is Stalin, and Stalin died in office.”
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