• Putin, 68, coughed repeatedly while speaking to top officials on Wednesday
  • Footage of the televised meeting was later edited to downplay the coughing fit
  • The Kremlin insisted last night that Putin’s health was ‘absolutely normal’

The Kremlin was forced to deny that Vladimir Putin had health problems on Wednesday after he suffered a coughing fit during a televised meeting.

The Russian president, 68, struggled to finish his sentence while speaking to top officials about ‘acute financial problems’ caused by Covid-19.

The video was later edited so that Putin’s coughing fit seemed less severe in a version posted by his office.

Health scare: Russian president Vladimir Putin covers his mouth as a coughing fit disrupts his televised meeting with senior officials on Wednesday

State news agency TASS asked the Kremlin about Putin’s health and was told he was ‘absolutely normal’. ‘The president apologized and continued the meeting almost without pausing,’ the agency said.

Putin was speaking by video call to his finance minister Anton Siluanov and other senior officials when the coughing fit started.

He uttered ‘Excuse me’ and repeatedly raised his right hand to his mouth as he struggled to go on.

Putin had to pause during his meeting with his finance minister and other officials, but the Kremlin rejected concerns about his health
Putin had to pause during his meeting with his finance minister and other officials, but the Kremlin rejected concerns about his health

The footage of the president’s remarks later posted on the Kremlin website edited the worst of his coughing, including when he said ‘excuse me’.

Radio Mayak, which had broadcast an original stream, reported: ‘Putin’s vocal cords gave in as he was setting his government to fight Covid-19.’

Unlike world leaders such as Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, Putin is believed so far to have avoided contracting Covid-19.

Earlier this month, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed claims that Putin could step down as early as January 2021 following rumours that he had Parkinson’s disease.

‘It’s absolute nonsense,’ said Peskov. ‘Everything is fine with the president.’

Despite Russia having two vaccines available – one tested by his daughter Katerina, 34 – Putin has not been injected, it is understood.

He has remained largely isolated in recent months after a scare in April when he came into contact with infected doctors at a Moscow clinic.

Putin’s current term expires in 2024 but a constitutional amendment passed earlier this year makes him eligible for two more terms, meaning he could rule until 2036.

The former KGB officer took power when Boris Yeltsin resigned on the last day of the 20th century, and Putin has been either president or prime minister ever since.

The health scare came on Wednesday as Russia announced a record daily death toll of 456 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 34,387.

Total infections, which are the fifth-highest in the world, rose to the brink of two million after 20,985 new cases were reported in 24 hours.

Putin told the one-and-a-half hour meeting that the situation with coronavirus remains ‘critical’ in many regions and called on the finance ministry to provide help.

Earlier he sounded the alarm over rising fatalities, saying: ‘The number of new cases is rising… and what’s most alarming – the death rate is increasing’.

There have also been concerns that Russia has downplayed the true toll, and that the death figures are significantly higher.

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