ussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been forced to deny Vladimir Putin is seriously ill after several reports he is being treated for blood cancer.
Mr Putin’s health is considered a taboo subject in Russia and is rarely discussed, but the denial came as rumours swirled that the president’s cancer diagnosis sparked his desire to invade Ukraine.
Answering a question from France’s broadcaster TF1, Mr Lavrov said: “I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment.”
He said that Mr Putin, who will turn 70 in October, appeared in public “every day.”
“You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his speeches,” Mr Lavrov said in comments released by the Russian foreign ministry.
“I leave it to the conscience of those who spread such rumours.”
It came after investigative media outlet Proyekt reported the Russian president was visited by a cancer specialist 35 times and bathes in blood extracted from severed deer antlers.
Proyekt claimed oncology surgeon Yevgeny Selivanov has spent 166 days at Putin’s Black Sea palace in the past four years.
Mr Selivanov, who specialises in thyroid cancer for “senile patients”, allegedly used alternative medicine on Mr Putin.
In April concerns were raised over Putin’s deteriorating health when he was filmed gripping on to a table with his thumb, repeatedly coughing and fidgeting for 12 minutes as he sat through a recorded statement about Mariupol.
On Monday, British defence chiefs claimed the Russian army has suffered “devastating losses” among its mid and junior ranking officers in his war in Ukraine.
They added that the scale of the fatalities was likely to harm the Russian military’s control and command over Mr Putin’s invasion which is now into its fourth month.
The UK defence chiefs believe that a lack of “experienced and credible platoon and company commanders” is likely to hit the morale and discipline of the Russian president’s forces.