Russian president Vladimir Putin was once feared around the world as a bear-fighting macho man but now the Kremlin’s top man looks a shadow of his former self as he appears weak and frail in public appearances
Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the world feared Vladimir Putin and his army.
The Russian president was seen bear-fighting and going into submarines which operated deep in the Black Sea.
He portrayed a strong, masculine figure and could confidently stand alongside any world leader.
But now the 69-year-old former KGB agent looks a shadow of his former self.
While he once bathed in deer blood to increase vitality, his recent public appearances have shown him as a frail man.
Some say he may be displaying signs of having cancer.
He was seen meeting with Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov in Moscow on May 18, an associate since his time in the KGB.
In the meeting, Putin was seen coughing several times and looking in obvious discomfort as his hand clutched the table for support.
On May 17, reports suggested that Putin underwent emergency surgery and had to have fluid removed from his abdomen.
A message was shared on the General SVR app by an anti-Putin channel which read: "On the night of Thursday, May 12 to Friday, May 13, Putin underwent a surgical procedure to remove fluid from his abdomen."
Vladimir Putin sitting at a table with his hand on the table and his foot tapping.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov in Moscow ( Image: Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters)
The channel is apparently run by an insider in the Kremlin with access to what goes on behind closed doors.
Whether the abdomen procedure was related to the potential cancer or something else is not known.
Judi James, a body language expert, explained that Putin's traits seen in recent photographs have always been there.
She told the Mirror: “Most of the recent pictures show traits that he has had all along but now they are exaggerated.
“The foot tapping and hand shaking has always been there. But when he is doing it now it does look as though he is uncomfortable or his leg is hurting, it does look like weakness."
Putin is due to turn 70 in October and he is at an age where health problems are commonplace.
Kremlin officials have consistently denied that his health is declining.
However, James is not convinced that Putin looks like a man on death's doorstep.
She added: “I am not seeing a man close to death. He is doing what I would call baring his underbelly, he showed his other side.
“It makes him look weak, however I still would proceed with caution because if an alpha is like that two things can happen: A rival might take it out or it might get the support of the public.
“So his behaviour is almost a move to garner support and could be a smart move for him.”
Others have pointed out that Putin's traits may suggest he is not able to physically hold himself upright, possibly due to ill health.
Professor Erik Bucy, a body language expert from Texas Tech University, told The Sun:" It’s an astonishingly weakened Putin compared to the man we observed even a few years ago.
"An able-bodied president would not need to keep himself propped up with a hand held out for leverage and would not be concerned about keeping both feet planted on the ground."