Russian President Vladimir Putin has withdrawn from an annual TV Q&A, prompting concerns about his failing health.
Putin has postponed the television broadcast for the first time in a decade. The annual televised programme ‘Direct Line with Vladimir Putin’ features citizens submitting questions for Putin to answer.
The number of questions received can reach millions, with the Russian President typically responding to roughly 70 in detail.
With the exception of 2004 and 2012, this is a big Russian television event that has taken place every year since Putin took power in 2001.
The government only declared last week that the marathon phone-in would take place at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum from June 15 to 18, making the quick backflip even more strange.
The event’s new date is “unknown,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, but it “cannot take place this month.”
One theory is that the Kremlin is afraid the 69-year-old would be confronted with a slew of challenging, if not hostile, questions about the invasion of Ukraine.
The other argument is that the decision is in response to Putin’s rumoured ill health, with speculation that he would struggle to stay on television for the entire event, which can last up to four hours.
Putin’s health has been the subject of new rumours almost weekly, with a report last week stating that the US intelligence community believes his health is deteriorating and that he is being treated for cancer.
The unexpected postponement came after it was stated five days ago that it will take place “in the near future,” indicating shortly after the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, which finishes on June 18.
There have been reports that the President is battling blood, thyroid, or stomach cancer, as well as claims that he has Parkinson’s disease in its early stages.
According to some credible sources in the West, he had cancer treatment during the conflict.
Putin’s health has been emphasised by the Kremlin, and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov recently disputed that he is ill.
Putin was recently accused of using body doubles to mask his ailing health by British intelligence officials.
According to MI6, the Russian President may not have even attended recent events in person, including the Moscow Victory Day Parade.
One intelligence source informed the Daily Star that several of his TV interviews and speeches could have been pre-recorded.