The Kremlin has denied reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning to resign due to health problems, reports the Russian state news agency TASS.
Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said the president has “excellent health” and “will not resign”. This came after the British tabloid The Sun reported that “Moscow sources” had growing fears about the health of the Russian leader. Recent footage of Putin, 68, “suggests that he may have possible symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” the newspaper said, quoting Moscow political scientist Professor Valery Solovei.
The report came as Russian MPs were considering a life-long immunity from prosecution for former presidents, a move that has sparked speculation that Putin may be preparing for his retirement. Russian lawmakers this week introduced two bills in parliament that include special provisions for former presidents.
The first would entitle a former president to a lifetime seat as a senator in the Russian Federation Council, a position that automatically comes with immunity from prosecution. The second bill would grant former presidents – Putin said after his resignation – life-long immunity from prosecution if and when they decide to resign from office. It would apply to all crimes committed during his lifetime. At present, ex-presidents are only protected for acts committed during their term of office.
The bills follow Russia’s adoption of constitutional amendments that “reset” Putin’s term restrictions so that he could potentially run for president twice more and remain in office until 2036, when he would be 84 years old. He has ruled the country since 2000, mainly as president, but also as prime minister.
The laws must pass through three readings in the lower house and then the upper house before they are signed by Putin to come into force. When asked whether the president was about to resign, spokesman Peskov answered flatly: “No.”
He said: “No: “[His] state of health is excellent” and that “there is nothing special to comment on”. The press secretary called the Sun’s report “complete nonsense” and said “The president is fine [with his health]”.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin is keeping a low profile with regard to the outcome of the US elections. Peskov said on Thursday: “It is impossible to comment in the current situation” and to do so would be “like a red rag to a bull”. Uncertainty in the US “could potentially have negative consequences for global affairs,” he said, “and to do so would be like a red rag to a bull.
Political analysts in Russia are pessimistic about the chances of the eventual election winner pressing for improved relations between Moscow and Washington.
Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on International Affairs, wrote on Facebook that an “anti-Russian” agenda had taken place in U.S. politics, and no matter who won, “there is no reason to expect any changes for the better in Russian-American relations, and that is very regrettable”.