Vladimir Putin got confused about the age of the child of a deputy mayor during a discussion at the Kremlin, sparking social media comment about the state of the Russian president’s health.
Unproven rumors have persisted about Putin’s condition since the start of his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. These have included that the Russian president has cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and even dementia. The Kremlin has insisted Putin is in good health.
However, adding to the speculation was footage from Wednesday’s meeting of the group “Russia—the Land of Opportunities,” a non-profit set up in 2018 to help citizens develop business ideas.
The clip tweeted by Uliana Yapparova, a blogger who tweets about Russia and Ukraine, shows Putin speaking with Ivan Shtokman, who had given Putin a potted history of his journey from working in a bakery to building an IT business. The transcript and video of the full meeting lasting more than 90 minutes was also available on the Kremlin website.
Wearing a military uniform, Shtokman described how success in a management competition had propelled him to deputy mayor of the city of Nizhny Novgorod where his brief included IT, tourism, and developing businesses.
But Shtokman said that he felt a patriotic pull while sitting on a bench at his dacha (summer house) with his son. “The future of the country is now being decided,” he told Putin, explaining his decision to join the army.
Putin seemed impressed with the story, describing it as “simply amazing” before recasting it as a parable of what Russia was going through.”
In the end, you came to the most important thing in this search … dedication to this country,” said Putin, “in the end, this is a struggle for the future of our children and your children.”
Putin then asked the age of his children, with Shtokman replying, “the youngest is nine” and the elder, 23.
But Putin got the age wrong, saying, “your little one is three years old” before praising Shtokman’s decision to go the front line.
Yapparova’s tweet of the exchange showing Putin’s confusion spurred speculation in a thread about the president’s state of mind. One user wrote that Putin’s “looking at the ceiling” while “slowly muttering about the search for a place in the country” was “abnormal.” Another wrote, “He can’t hear people at all.”
One user concluded that it was a display of “dementia” while in a separate tweet, Ivan Semyonov wrote next to the video: “Alzheimer’s.”
The exchange follows another lively online discussion about Putin this week when the Russian president seemed to give a flippant response to news from the Irkutsk governor Igor Kobzev, about the death of soldiers in Ukraine.
After Kobzev talked about about the troops from his region who had died in Ukraine, Putin responded “pass on my regards to them.”
This was compared to the “Good health to the fallen,” meme from Ukrainians in response to Russians killed in action.
Newsweek has contacted the Kremlin for comment.