For the last few months, Vladimir Putin has been remarkably absent from public life, canceling international events and, according to reports, remaining largely confined to his home near Moscow.
That Putin — a man well-known for his love of publicity — would disappear led to a number of rumors. Probably the most wide-spread was the rumor he had somehow hurt his back during a flying-with-cranes stunt in September. His official reps denied that, vaguely referring to an old "sporting injury".
Perhaps the most wild rumors suggested that Putin had back cancer, and a recent rejigging of the Defense Department was aimed at finding a successor for after his death.
Now, in an interview with Reuters published today, Europe's last dictator, Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko, has revealed what he knows about the injury.
"I know he has this problem. He loves judo. He lifted a guy, threw him, and twisted his spine," Lukashenko said. "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."
This explanation holds some weight, both being a "sporting injury" and relating to his back. Putin's love of judo is well-known, and Lukashenko is a relatively close ally.
On the other hand, he is a dictator who was recently shaken by air-dropped teddy bears, so perhaps take with a pinch of salt.
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