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Zelenskiy questions whether Putin is dead or alive

On Day 3 of the World Economic Forum, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy suggested that Vladimir Putin may not be alive to hold peace talks.

DAVOS, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 18: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a screen as he speaks during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting via video link at the Congress Centre in Davos January 18, 2023. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu AgencyGetty

One of the most eye-catching moments on Day 3 of the World Economic Forum in Davos came during Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s appearance via video link when he questioned whether Vladimir Putin was still alive.

Putin’s health has been the subject of speculation even before the Ukraine conflict began in February last year. There have been claims that he is suffering from a variety of chronic illnesses including cancer and early stage Parkinson’s disease - although the Kremlin has refused to deny or confirm those beliefs.

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Rumours surrounding the Russian president’s health intensified when the Kremlin announced that the traditional end-of-year press conference would not be taking place. Putin did appear however, just before Christmas, taking questions from 44 national journalists in a four-hour event on 22 December.

Putin, who turned 70 in October, is reported to be taking an array of medications which are causing him to suffer side effects such as nausea, fatigue and dizziness. An unnamed, ex-Russian intelligence officer claimed that the treatment that Putin has been receiving is making him withdrawn and snappy with the very small circle of people he is willing to attend in person. There were other allegations that he fell down a flight of stairs after losing his balance at his Moscow residence.

During his 19-minute address in Davos, Zelenskiy said he doesn’t know what to think about Putin’s health, whether he has been using a lookalike as a double - or who is actually controlling things in Moscow. While talking about whether peace can be achieved through dialogue, Zelenskiy made reference to Putin’s health.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stand for a minute of silence to pay tribute to Ukraine's late interior minister at the Congress centre during the WEF annual meeting in Davos on January 18, 2023.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stand for a minute of silence to pay tribute to Ukraine's late interior minister at the Congress centre during the WEF annual meeting in Davos on January 18, 2023. FABRICE COFFRINIGetty

“This is not the cinema where you are waiting for a film to start, this is a big tragedy,” Zelenskiy began. “We cannot treat this like an ordinary peaceful negotiation - negotiations are about what? Negotiating doesn’t mean you get peace automatically, people have to comprehend what this is about. Since I have been president we will do all it takes to liberate our lands. We are proposing options but at some point, some of them didn’t want to do things, others didn’t believe in that, others have come forward with certain conditions… there were lots of these people - usually based in Moscow.

“I don’t really understand today, who to talk to, and what to talk about. I am not sure whether the president of Russia, who sometimes appears on the screen somewhere, I don’t quite understand if he is the guy. I don’t understand if he is still alive, or that it is him particularly making the decisions. Who is taking decisions? Who is the circle of people making these decisions? I really don;t have that information now. I don’t understand how you can promise the European leaders one thing, then the next day you start a full invasion of the country - I don’t understand who we are dealing with here. So we talk about negotiations, I don’t understand with whom, Russia first has to find someone, then propose something” he concluded.


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