Vladimir Putin, the action man President of Russia, has suddenly cleared out a number of key arrangements. Some reports suggest that all of Putin's foreign trips have been cancelled until December.
Now many in Russia are beginning to wonder if the former KGB spy's health is still as strong as he presents it to be.
One source told Reuters last week the Putin had a serious back problem that will eventually need surgery (the Kremlin denied this). One specific theory is that Putin may have injured himself during a controversial recent publicity stunt, where he flew in a glider with endangered cranes. Earlier this week Russian daily Vedomosti wrote:
"According to two people very close to the Kremlin, the president really is experiencing health problems, which are connected to an old injury that flared up after his flight with cranes ... After the flight, it was very noticeable that he had a limp at the APEC summit in Vladivostok."
Putin's spokesperson has denied the cranes allegation, saying instead that Putin had simply "pulled a muscle" and was staying home because he does not like the fuss his official motorcade creates in central Moscow. The spokesperson gave one fascinating quote on the injury:
"Every athlete has many injuries, especially those who play sport actively and on a daily basis, like Putin. He has trained for a long time, practically semi-professionally."
Even with the denial, its still very un-Putinlike behavior. Putin, a former Judo champion, has long traded on his physical strength to draw popularity in Russia. However, at the age of 60, perhaps that lifestyle is catching up with him.
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