Since early October, Russian President Vladimir Putin has cancelled several foreign trips and his visits to Moscow from his suburban residence have become less frequent. His rare public appearances prompted media reports, suggesting that Putin’s state of health had deteriorated. His press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, has said the Kremlin leader is suffering from an old sports trauma, but dismissed media speculation that Putin’s state of health is affecting his work schedule.
Putin has carved out a macho image with sporting stunts that included piloting a Formula 1 car and a hang-glider flight with Siberian cranes to guide them on their winter migration path. Peskov has denied the injury was caused by Putin's hang-glider flight, a stunt ridiculed by bloggers at the time, which also led to media speculation that he hurt his back.
Putin is also frequently shown on Russian television in his favourite sport judo. It’s the Russian leader’s involvement in the martial arts sport that caused his latest injury, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko told Reuters in an interview on 27 November. "I know he has this problem. He loves judo. He lifted a guy, threw him, and twisted his spine," Lukashenko said, adding that he had been hoping to play ice hockey with Putin but the Russian President postponed the match. "He tells me: 'We are not prepared yet to take on your team.' He has damaged his spine somewhere. In a judo match. He was on the mat and hurt his spine," Lukashenko said.
Even though Russia has trade and energy ties with neighbouring Belarus and is part of the Common Economic Space, Moscow and Minsk have clashed over a number of issues and the two leaders are not exactly close friends.
Meanwhile, Putin is back to his busy itinerary next week, putting an end to speculation that his health is deteriorating. The Russian President is visiting Turkey and Turkmenistan next week. Putin is also expected to meet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gül during a working visit in Istanbul on 3 December. Two days later, Putin will attend the summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Ashgabat, The Moscow Times reported.