Questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s health continued to swirl Wednesday as he missed his beloved annual ice hockey game – appearing instead on a video sporting mysterious marks on his face.
Putin pulled out of the Night Hockey League game in which he had been “expected” to compete and sent a video message while at Sochi, the Black Sea resort where the match was scheduled to take place, East2West News reported.
Adding to speculation about the strongman’s health were dark blotches on his cheeks that may have been masked by makeup.
“I wish you good luck in your ice battles and all the best,” Putin said in his message. “And as they say, ‘May the best win.’”
A Moscow source told the news outlet that the amateur game “was always a firm date in his [Putin’s] diary,” added that “something must be wrong for him to be a no-show.”
Regional Kuban News reported that “it had been expected that Vladimir Putin would also play for Legends of Hockey, but in early May, the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Peskov, announced that the head of state would not take part in the game.
“It is only the second time in the history of the gala matches since 2012 that the president is missing this game,” the outlet added, according to East2West. “In 2013, he held a symbolic face-off and watched the match from the stands.”
At the time, Putin’s no-show on that occasion was reportedly blamed on health issues.
Set up in 2011, the Night Hockey League is made up of former NHL stars, oligarchs and politicians.
Putin, a judo black belt who has often displayed his athletic prowess, boasted in 2021 that ice hockey provided him longevity — and used his appearance at the annual game to squelch rumors about his health.
“You extend your life, you make it of better quality and deeper meaning,” he said, according to East2West.
The outlet also speculated that another reason Putin skipped the game was security concerns.
A military flyover at Moscow’s Red Square was canceled amid claims the Russian leader was concerned about an “aerial strike” at the annual Victory Day parade, where he was spotted sitting with a heavy blanket across his legs and also appeared to be limping.
Questions about Putin’s physical health have grown after he was recently seen looking swollen and awkwardly gripping a table for support in a clip from a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that was released by the Kremlin.
He also appeared unsteady during an Orthodox Easter service in Moscow — though some reports have suggested he wasn’t even there and that the video was doctored by the Kremlin.
Another video, posted on the Twitter page Visegrad 24, showed Putin holding up his apparently shaking hand before pressing it against his chest prior a recent meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Other reports have suggested that Putin recently held dozens of secret meetings with a cancer doctor — and has become so paranoid about his health that he has turned to unconventional therapies.
The Kremlin has denied any allegations that the warmonger is in poor health.