One of the chief anchors of the western PR campaign against Russia in the aftermath of the Ukraine war was the incredibly huge number of poorly sourced news stories about Vladimir Putin's health.
Unabashedly sorry-looking news stories were incessantly published in the western press saying Putin was close to kicking the bucket. The UK newspapers -- mainstream ones and tabloids alike -- were the chief perpetrators of this insidious effort. Significantly, Russia seemed to have never given too much attention to these cock and bull stories.
Now, the CIA Director himself has rubbished the rumors. William Burns, who was formerly ambassador to Russia, has said there is no evidence to suggest that Putin was ill. Burns even said the Russian leader appeared "too healthy".
"There are lots of rumours about President Putin's health and as far as we can tell he's entirely too healthy," Burns said during his speech at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, according to BBC.
Tabloids on Steroids
UK tabloids have been on steroids. Ever since the Ukraine war started, stories started pouring in saying that Putin was suffering from cancer. The experts said his cancer surgery had woefully gone wrong and he was on the death bed. And yes, it was blood cancer. Then the reports said the Russian leader was suffering from Parkinson's disease.
Competitive reporting in the press dished out an impressive glossary of health issues attributed to Putin. Dementia, memory loss, uncontrollable shaking, brain and back issues that need surgery -- all were attributed to the Russian strongman. Some other reports documented how he had developed a limp, was struggling with speech and gait and suffering from an assortment of neurological disorders. And thyroid problems. Yes, it's thyroid cancer, of course.
Every instance Putin coughed (that typical way despots cough, of course!) was celebrated in the western press, and heralded as the sign of the Russian leader's death. They then spotted him having a cold, which somehow worsened into a lethal, unknown infection. Putin was conveniently flagged sporting a bloated look and then a gaunt appearance. He was gaining weight, which is unhealthy, and then losing weight, which is also portentous.
As the war wore on more experts delved in, saying Putin had psychological issues and was headed to a sanatorium. The hawks found out that Putin was taking breaks at public events to get steroid injections, which then made him appear disoriented and fidgety. Then there were theories that Putin was schizophrenic. Or was it an acute brain disorder?
The sources were either Ukrainian intelligence, a Kremlin insider or the UK intelligence. Sometimes an 'estranged oligarch' or a General who fled the battle came in handy as well. Or indeed, an all too ubiquitous 'spy chief'.
It doesn't matter who the source is or what the ailment is. Everyone just agrees that Putin will die soon. Of course, they also not-so-secretly hope that he gets assassinated. That will be more spectacular.