Rumours circulate about Vladimir Putin's health after cancelled Japan visit

In this Sept. 2010 photo released on Oct. 30, 2010, then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin carries a hunting rifle in the Siberian Tyva region. (RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Government Press Service/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly cancelled a visit to Japan because of poor health, in a move that is fuelling speculation about the usually athletic president’s condition.

According to a report from BBC News, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said a planned visit with the Russian leader had been postponed because: “President Putin’s health condition is bad.”

The ever-secretive Kremlin, however, is keeping things, well, secret. Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says that the visit with Noda was never finalized and that Putin, 60, is working as hard as ever. “He is working as before, and plans to continue working at the same pace,” he said. “He is also not planning to stop his sports activities, and, as any athlete, he may sometimes have pain in the back, an arm or a leg. This has never affected his work efficiency.”

The lack of information means there is room for speculation about the health of the leader who is known to play up his sporty side. In the past, Putin has enjoyed posing shirtless on a horse, handling a gun without a shirt, fishing and hanging out with polar bears.

A Russian newspaper says Putin “may have aggravated an old injury during a hard landing at the end of a September publicity event in which he piloted a motorized hang glider to help lead endangered cranes to their winter nesting grounds,” reports the Wall Street Journal. (Yes, that actually happened. Though, the birds refused to take instruction during the press stunt and a video shows just two birds actually following the president.)

Another report, from Reuters, quotes Belarus President Alexander Lukashenk saying Putin injured his back during a Judo match. “I know he has this problem. He loves judo. He lifted a guy, threw him, and twisted his spine,” Lukashenk said during an interview.

Putin’s last official visit outside of Russia was to Tajikistan on Oct. 5. The lack of travel is seen as unusual for the globe-trotting president. Though, the Kremlin says that Putin is scheduled to go to Turkey next week in a one-day visit to talk economics in Istanbul.

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