Vladimir Putin was initially expected to make his usual appearance on the ice during a hockey match for Russia’s Night Hockey League National Festival in Sochi Tuesday, but instead was absent from the match and provided a video message to athletes and spectators instead.

This has revived discussions around whether the Russian president has been experiencing declining health following his country’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite it being reported that Putin was in Sochi at the time of the game, he abstained from the public appearance and some said that his face appeared splotchy, bloated and unhealthy in his video address.

The game is usually not comprised of professional athletes, but prominent Russian government officials, celebrities, oligarchs, and other notable Russians who join both teams. Shockingly, Putin is usually the one on the winning team.

Several videos of the Russian leader seeming frail or shaky have been dissected by critics online, who suspect that he either suffers from the disease Parkinsons or is in treatment for terminal cancer. These include videos of him propping himself up during discussions with officials or stopping his hands and arms from trembling, and videos from public appearances and parades where he has been seen limping and frequently appearing physically uncomfortable.


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Putin has long used his physical prowess and interest in extreme sports as part of a cult of personality that he developed around himself, which may be why media sources have been examining the increased frailty in some of his public appearances so closely.

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