The Kremlin was forced to deny that Vladimir Putin had health problems on Wednesday after suffering a coughing fit during a televised meeting.
The Russian president, 68, struggled to finish his sentence while speaking to senior 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 released by his office.
The state-run TASS news agency asked the Kremlin about Putin’s health and was told he was “absolutely normal.” “The president apologized and continued the meeting almost without stopping,” the agency said.
Fear for health: Russian President Vladimir Putin covers his mouth as coughing fits disrupts his televised meeting with senior officials on Wednesday
Putin was speaking by video call to his Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and other senior officials when the coughing fit started.
He said “Excuse me” and repeatedly raised his right hand to his mouth as he struggled to continue.
Images of the president’s remarks later published on the Kremlin website corrected the worst of his cough, including when he said “excuse me.”
Radio Mayak, which had broadcast an original stream, reported: “Putin’s vocal cords gave way as he prepared his government to fight Covid-19. “
Unlike world leaders such as Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, Putin has so far reportedly avoided contracting Covid-19.
Although Russia has two vaccines available – one tested by her daughter Katerina, 34 – it was not injected, it is understood.
He has remained largely isolated in recent months after a fear in April when he came into contact with infected doctors at a Moscow clinic.
Putin had to take a break from meeting with his finance minister and other officials, but the Kremlin dismissed concerns about his health
Putin’s current term expires in 2024, but a constitutional amendment passed earlier this year makes him eligible for two additional terms, meaning he could rule until 2036.
The former KGB officer came to power when Boris Yeltsin resigned on the last day of the 20th century, and Putin has been president or prime minister ever since.
The health scare came on Wednesday as Russia announced a record-breaking daily death toll of 456 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 34,387.
The total number of infections, which is the fifth highest in the world, reached the threshold of two million after 20,985 new cases were reported in 24 hours.
Putin told the 1.5-hour meeting that the situation with the coronavirus remained “critical” in many areas and called on the finance ministry to help.
Previously, he had sounded the alarm on the increase in the number of deaths, saying: “The number of new cases is increasing… and what is most alarming – the death rate is increasing”.
There are also fears that Russia has played down the real toll and that the death figures are significantly higher.