What's up with Putin gripping the table in that new video?

Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Ed wrote last night about yesterday’s odd televised meeting between Putin and defense minister Sergei Shoigu. But the oddest part wasn’t anything that was said, or the uncharacteristically short table at which the two men sat.

Is there any plausible explanation for this that doesn’t involve poor health?

He maintains that curious underhand grip on the table’s edge for 12 full minutes. You can check the video yourself.

It wasn’t a one-off either. Per the Independent, “he was snapped holding the corner of a table during a meeting with Nikolay Tokarev, the president of Transneft, a Russian state-controlled oil pipeline company,” in a separate meeting yesterday.

Hmmm.

One theory is that he grabbed the table during the meeting with Shoigu for support. “An able-bodied president would not need to keep himself propped up with a hand held out for leverage and would not be concerned about keeping both feet planted on the ground,” said one expert to a British tabloid. Putin’s hunched posture, with his neck invisible from the side, radiates a sense of physical discomfort.

There were reports a few weeks ago that specialists in thyroid cancer have visited him repeatedly over the past few years, with at least one known to trail him around. Make of it what you will.

There’s another possibility. Rumors have kicked around for awhile that Putin has Parkinson’s; Ed flagged one story about it back in 2020.

Kremlin watchers said recent tell-tale footage showed the 68-year-old strongman has possible symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease…

Observers who studied recent footage of Putin noted his legs appeared to be in constant motion and he looked to be in pain while clutching the armrest of a chair.

His fingers are also seen to be twitching as he held a pen and gripped a cup believed to contain a cocktail of painkillers.

That post was titled, “Is Putin about to retire?” If in fact his health has been worsening, it would help explain why he gave the order to conquer Ukraine despite the fact that his army seems unequal to the task. There may have been more to the decision than Putin being duped by his yes-men advisors about the capabilities of the Russian and Ukrainian militaries. It may have been a “now or never” matter in his mind. If he has only a few years left, this is his last chance to secure a legacy by re-absorbing Ukraine into Russia. He may have felt he had no choice but to gamble.

If it is Parkinson’s, that would also explain why he was gripping the table yesterday. He wasn’t supporting himself, perhaps, but instead trying to obscure a tremor in his right hand.

Although if that were true, you would think the Kremlin wouldn’t have allowed the meeting to be recorded, or at least to have positioned Putin on the right side of the table so that his right hand was obscured. It’s a strange display.

Maybe he was just depressed because he’d received the latest casualty numbers?

Whether Putin is sick physically is an open question. Whether he’s sick mentally is less of a mystery. News from Mariupol:

The alleged mass grave is near a village called Manhush about 20km (12 miles) west of Mariupol. Maxar said there were four sections of linear rows about 85m long…

The council said the Russians were digging trenches and “using dump lorries to bring the bodies” and provided its own aerial image of the site, which it said was “already twice as large as the nearby cemetery”.

The city’s mayor Vadym Boichenko says tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed in Mariupol.

“The invaders are concealing evidence of their crimes. The cemetery is located near a petrol station to the left side of a circular road. The Russians have dug huge trenches, 30 metres wide. They chuck people in,” Mariupol’s mayor said yesterday. Russia’s crimes in Bucha were exposed because the Russians were forced to evacuate and redeploy to the east, allowing the Ukrainians to discover the bodies laying out in the street. Putin’s army is in a better position in Mariupol, which it now mostly controls. Bodies can be scooped up and either burned or mass-buried before the Ukrainians can document them. This time, the evidence will be hidden.

But not all of it.

At least a few residents were allowed to leave the city alive and tell others what they saw there. Exit quotation: “The scariest thing was that when you went out in the street, you saw that nobody was allowed to collect the bodies… A lot of buildings were on fire. We know that a lot of families burned alive.”