Questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s health continued to swirl on Wednesday as he missed his beloved annual ice hockey match – instead appearing in a video sporting mysterious marks on his face.
Putin withdrew from the Night Hockey League game he was “expected” to play in and sent a video message to Sochi, the Black Sea resort town where the game was due to take place, East2West News reported.
Adding to speculation about the strongman’s health, there were dark patches on his cheeks which may have been covered up with makeup.
“I wish you good luck in your ice battles and all the best,” Putin said in his post. “And as they say, ‘May the best man win’.”
A Moscow source told the outlet that amateur play “has always been a fixed date in its [Putin’s] diary,” added that “something is wrong for him not to show up.”
Regional Kuban News reported that “Vladimir Putin was also expected to play for Legends of Hockey, but in early May, the press secretary to the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Peskov, announced that the head of the state would not participate in the game.
“This is only the second time in the history of gala matches since 2012 that the president has missed this match,” the outlet added, according to East2West. “In 2013 he held a symbolic face-off and watched the game from the stands.”
Putin’s no-show on the occasion was reportedly blamed on health issues.
Created in 2011, the Night Hockey League is made up of former NHL stars, oligarchs and politicians.
Putin, a judo black belt who has often displayed his athletic prowess, boasted in 2021 that ice hockey had given him longevity – and used his appearance at the annual game to quell rumors about his health.
“You extend your life, you give it a better quality and a deeper meaning,” he said, according to East2West.
The outlet also speculated that another reason Putin skipped the game was security concerns.
A military flyby in Moscow’s Red Square was called off as the Russian leader worried about an ‘air strike’ during the annual Victory Day parade, where he was spotted sitting with a heavy blanket over his legs and also seemed to limp.
Questions about Putin’s physical health rose after he was recently seen bloated and awkwardly clutching a table for support in a clip of a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that was released by the Kremlin.
He also appeared unsteady during an Orthodox Easter service in Moscow – although some reports suggest he wasn’t even there and the video was doctored by the Kremlin.
another video, posted on the Visegrad 24 Twitter page, showed Putin raising his seemingly shaky hand before pressing it to his chest ahead of a recent meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Former British MP Louise Mensch said that the images seems to support earlier reports that “Vladimir Putin has Parkinson’s disease”.
Other reports suggest Putin recently held dozens of secret meetings with a cancer doctor – and became so paranoid about his health that he turned to unconventional therapies.
The Kremlin has denied any allegations that the warmonger is in poor health.