The wife of an exiled Russian oligarch said in a new documentary that she is “frightened” by rumors that Russian President Vladimir Putin is suffering from a serious illness because a dire health diagnosis might make him not care about the consequences of his actions.
Tatiana Fokina made the comments in Secrets of the Oligarch Wives, a Paramount+ documentary that became available on the streaming service on Tuesday. Fokina is married to Yevgeny Chichvarkin, who made a fortune with a cellphone business. She is also the CEO of a wine and spirits emporium and runs a Michelin-starred restaurant in London, where she lives with her husband. The couple has been outspoken in their opposition of Putin and of the war he started in Ukraine in late February.
Rumors about Putin’s health predate his invasion of Ukraine. However, speculation that he could be very sick has intensified in recent months with people citing videos of the Russian president appearing shaky or tense as evidence that he might have Parkinson’s disease, even though some medical experts have disputed such talk.
“There are rumors that he is ill…and I think they’re likely to be true, and if they are true…that makes me really frightened, because a person who is really ill doesn’t really care about what happens next,” Fokina said in the documentary.
Adding to the rumors of Putin’s health was an investigative report by Proekt Media in April that claimed Putin was accompanied by doctors—including a thyroid cancer surgeon—on trips from 2016 to 2019. Proekt’s report also said Putin may have undergone surgery several years ago, but its story did not directly say whether Putin was diagnosed with cancer or any other illness.
In late May, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied claims that Putin is suffering from a serious illness. During an interview with the French television station TF1, Lavrov said of Putin: “I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment.”
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, also disputed claims about the president being ill in a March interview with the Associated Press, saying Putin’s health was “really perfect.”
Financier and political activist Bill Browder also discussed Putin’s health in Secrets of the Oligarch Wives. He said he doesn’t believe the leader’s illness to be physical.
“I think Putin is ill, but not in the way that most people think Putin is ill. Putin is mentally ill, but he’s been mentally ill as a psychopath since childhood,” Browder said. “Putin’s illness leads him to lack any empathy, lack any conscience [and] lack any normal human emotion when it comes to the fate of other people. And that will lead him to all sorts of terrible crimes.”
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