Investigation for Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday
Mikhail Rubin, Dmitry Sukharev, Mikhail Maglov, Roman Badanin, with the participation of Svetlana Reuter (Meduza), April 1, 2022
It is commonly assumed that by his 23rd year in office, the Russian president is only interested in geopolitics. In fact, there is at least one other issue that concerns Putin at least as much — his own health. It seems that the president has a lot to worry about. In the year of the anniversary of the head of the Russian state, The Project answers the most secret questions of the Kremlin — who treats Putin and from what.
instead of an epigraph:
Many rulers have dreamed of extending their lives, both physically and politically. But the outcome was always the same. In the 1920s, one of the leaders of the Bolsheviks, Alexander Bogdanov, also a physician and philosopher, created the theory of “physiological collectivism”: it was assumed that old Bolsheviks would pass on their beliefs to the young through blood transfusions, rejuvenating themselves in the process. Experiments with the blood of Maria Ulyanova and Leonid Krasin convinced Joseph Stalin, who understood nothing about science, to give Bogdanov the famous building of the merchant Igumnov on Yakimanka Street in Moscow — the Blood Transfusion Institute was established there. However, the institute was soon kicked out because Bogdanov died during a blood exchange with a young student. The old Bolshevik’s body rejected the young blood, thus burying the theory of physiological collectivism as well. However, the Bolsheviks, fascinated by the new medical ideas, removed Bogdanov’s brain and gave it, along with that of his former Party comrade Vladimir Lenin, to the Brain Institute for study. By a wicked irony, the institute was placed in the same Igumnov mansion. After several years of unsuccessful searches for physiological signs of genius in the brain of the leader of the world proletariat, the authorities abandoned this venture as well. The Brain Institute was kicked out of the mansion, and the brains of Lenin, Bogdanov, and other revolutionaries were cut up and hidden in flasks, which no one cared about for a long time.
On October 7 of this year, President Putin is to celebrate his 70th birthday. Joseph Stalin had already had his second stroke by that age, Leonid Brezhnev had become so incapacitated that the real power had gone to his entourage, Yuri Andropov did not live to see this date at all, and Boris Yeltsin resigned as a deeply unhealthy man. As his press secretary Dmitry Peskov put it, Putin’s health is “excellent. Judging by the television picture, the president of Russia really can’t be compared with his predecessors — he exercises, takes walks in the taiga, and only gets sick with a cold at most. If these reports are to be believed, Putin won’t have any trouble leading Russia until 2036, as his own amended constitution allows him to do. But is this true?
From the beginning of Putin’s first term, the Kremlin began withholding information about the then-young president’s health — even when he fell from his horse, injuring his back.
— I was training. It so happened that the horse reared up in front of the barrier, and I did a somersault, an actual somersault — boom! — This was one of Putin’s rarest admissions of any health problems last year. He immediately came to his senses, adding that he “quite comfortably” fell on sawdust.
Taking the chair of the head of state at the age of 47, Putin at the beginning of his presidential career exploited the image of an active man in the prime of his life. Considering that in 2002 the national leader conceived a child out of wedlock with his mistress, Svetlana Krivonogikh, this image was not far from the truth and was certainly true in contrast to his seriously ill and addiction-stricken predecessor as president.
In his early days, Putin was seldom examined and paid little attention to problems such as fever, recalls an official who worked with the head of state at the time: “He could only postpone a meeting until the evening if he had a severe infection.” However, it was so important the Kremlin wanted to create an image of an alpha male president that they decided not to say anything bad about his health at all. The authorities tried not to acknowledge even the most simple fever, not to mention sports injuries, such as the one that Putin spilled the beans about in 2021.
And falling off horses was quite a problem. The head of state was a keen horseman in the noughties, and the injuries associated with this activity did not pass him by
It’s possible that this trauma reverberated in 2012. On November 4 that year, the National Unity Day, state TV channels aired footage of the flower laying at the monument to Minin and Pozharsky on Red Square. Putin and Patriarch Kirill took part in the ceremony. However, the president was not shown in the TV broadcast. The reason was that he limped so noticeably that they decided to suppress this information not just on TV: the Kremlin press service did not post a video of the event on its official website, limiting itself to photos
By the time of the Red Square ceremony, it was obvious to the officials who worked with Putin that something was wrong with the president. Back in September he was limping through the APEC summit in Vladivostok, and then it was as if he were stuck in Moscow — the Kremlin began to cancel one Putin’s official flight after another. In December, things got even worse: the presidential protocol was instructed to allow no more than an hour for all events — the national leader could not sit down for any longer for health reasons
It was then that the Kremlin mastered such a tool as “canned footage” — the publication of pre-recorded meetings between Putin and his subordinates. This allowed him to quietly disappear from the eyes of journalists and the entire country. As time went by, the number of these disappearances increased. As did the number of his health problems.
Putin’s most prominent disappearances
All business trips, long-distance flights and events in the Kremlin and Novo-Ogaryovo were canceled, some meetings were recorded in advance
March 5-15, 2015
Putin does not appear in public, all meetings are pre-recorded
August 9-16, 2017
The president visits Abkhazia and Sochi with journalists, and then the Kremlin publishes “canned footage” for the whole following week
In the midst of the election campaign, the president cancels all public events on February 12-14. Peskov admits that the head of state “caught a cold”
September 13-29, 2021
“self-isolation”, all events are held by video link
Расследования — это дорого, но это того стоит
Оформив ежемесячное пожертвование “Проекту”, вы поможете нам делать еще больше важных и громких расследований. Так вы поддержите всю расследовательскую журналистику в России!
As he aged, concerns about health and longevity have so consumed the president that he has even shown an interest in unconventional medicine, despite many members of his family, including previously unknown ones, being physicians
As you know, Putin loves animals. But for the sake of his health, he is willing to undergo a procedure that is torturous for the animals and medically questionable. The story below describes the change in Putin’s attitude towards his longevity by the time he became the essentially indefinite ruler of Russia. Since the end of Putin’s second presidential term, his health has been a national priority.
In spring, Altai red deer horns, or antlers, grow at an enormous rate of several centimeters a day. At this moment the antlers are not yet ossified, they are soft and full of blood. Extract from these horns is said to have a therapeutic effect (people supposedly benefit from antler baths), so there is a whole industry for the extraction of pantocrine
Sergei Shoigu, the then head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, was the first person in the Russian elite to become interested in antler baths. In the mid-2000s, Shoigu brought Putin to Altai for the first time, convincing him of the benefits of this treatment, which supposedly improves the cardiovascular system and rejuvenates the skin
The sensitive elites quickly spotted Putin’s new hobby. Antlers and other ways to extend one’s youth quickly became popular among officials. One of the Project’s interlocutors, a former presidential administration official, says that he himself has been to the antler baths in Altai and, among other people, met Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin there. Big fans of bloody procedures are the head of Gazprom Alexey Miller and his entourage — they fly containers with antler extract from Altai to Moscow on a business jet at least once a year
Putin’s interest in unscientific medicine sounds strange if you know an important fact about the president — he is surrounded entirely by doctors. His eldest daughter Maria Vorontsova graduated from the medical faculty of Moscow State University, quickly became a leading researcher at the Russian Endocrinology Center, and then became a shareholder in Nomeko, a medical project that develops new methods of cancer treatment, among other things. Vorontsova’s partner in this business is Yury Kovalchuk, a friend of the president
But Putin also has other relatives in this area, including some who have remained unknown until now. Yevgeny Putin’s cousin has been a pediatric surgeon all his life, his wife Diya is a gynecologist
Their sister (Putin’s cousin) Tatiana remained a doctor and succeeded financially even in this profession
How hospitals and polyclinics for officials work in Russia ↓
Ptashuk’s daughter Elena is also a well-known person in the medical community. Putin’s grandniece married Vasily Zhidkov and became the head of RZD-Medicine under his surname. She kept her last name even after her second marriage, in which she married U.S. citizen Yevgeny Mullakandov, who is also associated with medicine. He is the co-author of a genome-assisted health prediction program modestly titled I’m Genius. He is also associated with Socmedica, a Skolkovo resident who has developed an app that identifies the risks of complications from COVID-19. Yevgeny Mullakandov also owns a 51% stake in the Yan Nepomnyashchy School of Chess. On February 24, 2022 Mullakandov’s partner, Grandmaster Yan Nepomnyashchy, spoke out against the war that Russia is waging with Ukraine).
How Putin’s niece is connected to his mistress ↓
Perhaps, at some point, the doctors personally acquainted with the president convinced Putin to visit doctors more often. Or perhaps there were natural reasons for this.
Subscribe to our mailing (in russian)
The aging Putin is now accompanied by a huge team of doctors, including a surgeon-oncologist
In the west of Moscow, in Krylatskoe, there is a huge area occupied by the Central Clinical Hospital (CCH). It is this medical institution that is responsible for the health of top officials — there are VIP rooms, special communications and security. It is here, in what one of the Project’s interlocutors calls the “department of personal doctors” that Putin has been paying visits more and more often over the years. The interlocutor described how the hospital bosses greet him on arrival, and then place him in the hands of the doctors who are assigned to the president. One such doctor, for example, has long been Dmitri Verbovoy.
Apparently, he is a resuscitation specialist; at least the Internet lists him as the author of a manual on emergency care for acute illnesses, injuries and poisonings. Apparently, Verbovoy treated Putin well — he made his medic first an honored doctor of Russia, then the deputy head of his medical department, and then his deputy chief of medical affairs.
However, over the years, it is not so much Putin who visits doctors in the Central Clinical Hospital, as it is they who visit him: the doctors fly to Putin’s residences and accompany him on his trips. And these trips provide a unique opportunity to understand what Putin is being treated for and who does it.
Putin spent much of May 2017 in his favorite place, Sochi. The day after the Victory Parade, he went to his southern residence of Bocharov Ruchei and played some brilliant hockey at the Sochi Ice Palace that same evening, as always. His team, the Hockey Legends, crushed their rivals with a score of 17-6, and the head of state made a decisive contribution to this victory, scoring seven goals. The match was marred by only one thing — the legendary veteran Pavel Bure accidentally crashed into the president, and he fell, almost doing a somersault.
After the clash, the president left the site on his own, but on the same day a certain Konstantin Arkadyevich Sim checked in at the Rus sanitarium, which is part of the Presidential Administration and is located just outside Putin’s residence. He stayed there until May 18. It is known that Sim is an orthopedic traumatologist. But more importantly, the Project can say with certainty that this man is one of the doctors who treat the president of Russia.
Paradoxically, after many years of hiding information about Putin’s health, the authorities made information about the president’s doctors publicly available. The fact is that all of Putin’s entourage in Sochi, including the doctors, are accommodated in four places: near the Laura ski resort, at the Grand Hotel Polyana and Polyana 1389 Hotel and Spa (* they are owned by Gazprom(), or near his residence at the aforementioned Rus or Sochi sanitariums.
The contract between the Central Clinical Hospital and the hotels for accommodation of the doctors is published on the public procurement website together with the acts of acceptance of services rendered. In the acts one can find the names of the doctors and dates of their occupancy in the hotels over the period of four years, from 2016 to 2020. It is clear from these documents that doctors like Sim flew specifically to see Putin — the dates coincide either with the president’s official visits to Sochi or with periods of his mysterious disappearances.
The array of data on state contracts between the Central Clinical Hospital and hotels, processed by the Project, allows us to draw important conclusions. Back in 2016-17, the president was regularly accompanied by an average of five doctors in Sochi. For example, four other doctors, including the ENT doctor Alexei Shcheglov and the infectious disease specialist Yaroslav Protasenko, were staying at the Rus on the same day as Sim.
During that period, a fairly standard set of on-duty specialists worked with the president, all appearing in Sochi at the same time as the head of state. For example, for most of May 2017, the doctors would come and go, but on May 29 they all left as if on cue — that day, the president left first for Paris, and from there for St. Petersburg. On July 21, the president returned to Sochi to meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev — and the same infectious disease specialist
Which doctors accompanied Vladimir Putin to Sochi in May and July 2017
But from time to time, the number of medics next to the president dramatically increases. The Project can say with certainty that on at least two occasions, Putin has had either surgery or a very serious procedure, most likely in the area of his back. On November 25, 2016, the president met with actor Steven Seagal at the Kremlin, and then disappeared until December 1 — that whole time, the Kremlin website published “canned footage” and reported him having phone conversations. At this point, 12 medics consecutively checked into the Rus sanitarium. First, a group of Putin’s personal doctors arrived, headed by Verbov. Then a group of operating neurosurgeons of the Central Clinical Hospital headed by Oleg Myshkin joined them for two days. The group was so serious that the Reanimator of CCB Pavel Sharikov who was already in Sochi was not enough for them, and they brought in the specialist of the neurosurgical department Elena Rastrusina, and the chief nurse Lyudmila Kadenkova as well. At the same time, Mikhail Tsykunov, a rehabilitologist and Distinguished Physician, arrived at the hotel. The treatment obviously went well — already on December 1, Putin made an address to the Federal Assembly. A year later the president awarded Myshkin the title of Distinguished Physician of Russia
Which doctors came to Sochi during the “disappearance” of Vladimir Putin in 2016
In 2019, Putin required help again. On the weekend of November 30 and December 1, the president was in Sochi
Which doctors came to Sochi during the “disappearance” of Vladimir Putin in 2019
By this point, the total number of doctors permanently accompanying the president has also grown, with an average of nine in 2019. This number seems high if one assumes that Putin’s problems are limited to his spine. But in fact, it isn’t.
On February 13, 2019, the Russian leader hosted his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi. To demonstrate their own health, the two irreplaceable leaders went skiing at the very same Gazprom’s Laura resort. On the same days, two intensive care specialists, a neurologist, a dermatovenerologist, two ENTs, and an oncology surgeon were staying at the Polyana 1389 Hotel and Spa.
Who accompanied Putin during his meeting with Lukashenko
Oncologist-surgeon Evgeny Selivanov is one of the most frequent medical attendants of Putin. Over the course of four years, the doctor has flown to him 35 times and spent a total of 166 days with the head of state. He was present near Putin both during his official stay in Sochi and during the head of state’s “disappearances”. In August 2017, Putin disappeared from the public eye for a long time, from August 8 to 16. All this time six medics were in Sochi, including otolaryngologist Shcheglov and oncology surgeon Selivanov.
Only otolaryngologists Igor Esakov and Alexey Shcheglov fly to Putin more often than the oncology surgeon — the latter has flown to him 59 times and stayed by his side for 282 days. All three of them work together very often — in four years they have been to Sochi at least 18 times.
Which doctors visited Putin the most
Thyroid diseases, including cancer, are usually first diagnosed by an otolaryngologist, after which an oncologist and a surgeon get involved in the treatment, Israeli doctor Michael Fremderman explained to The Project. The Central Clinical Hospital receptionist confirmed that Dr. Selivanov is available at the hospital — but that he has never been on the phone himself.
Putin has publicly demonstrated an interest in the problem of thyroid cancer. In July 2020, he met with the head of the National Medical Research Center for Endocrinology, Ivan Dedov — he is the boss of Putin’s eldest daughter Maria. Dedov told the President about the high prevalence of thyroid cancer
At the beginning of last fall, Putin was acting strangely. After a long time in isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of state finally started to get out in public. On September 13, he met with Paralympic athletes — at that time the president did not yet sit away from people at a long table, but instead allowed the athletes to surround him tightly. It was this way, standing in a crowd of people, that Putin suddenly announced that he had to go into isolation because too many people around him were sick with the coronavirus.
The news came as a surprise even to the president’s entourage. His press secretary was initially confused and denied the chief’s words — supposedly, the president was speaking “figuratively” about isolation. Nevertheless, Putin went into isolation the next day, took part in the Duma election from his own office, and did not appear in public for the entire month of September. In medical circles, it is believed that the president was undergoing a complicated procedure related to some kind of thyroid disease during this period, according to an acquaintance of the chief doctor at one of the large hospitals whose specialists were involved in the treatment.
While in the past Putin used to distance himself from ordinary people in the figurative sense, after September he started to do so in a more direct way. Even with the world leaders, the heads of France and Germany, he sat on opposite sides of very long tables, the members of the government keep the same distance from him now.
* * *
The true relationship between the ruler and ordinary people in Russia can be easily understood from the following episode. Putin has spent the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that no head of state in the world has ever done: the Russian president held most of his meetings via video link, and only allowed the few visitors to see him after a two-week quarantine and a stool test. It was obvious that the leader’s health was the number one priority.
Even Putin’s big press conference in 2020 was held in an unusual format. Putin, Peskov and selected journalists were to sit in one small room, while the rest of the crowd was to sit in a large room, from where reporters asked questions via video link. Naturally, everyone who was supposed to sit in the same room with Putin, including the presidential press secretary, was quarantined for two weeks and then forced to take a COVID test. Peskov’s test came back positive