Weakened Putin is shadow of bear-fighting masculine hero he once was

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Russian leader Vladimir Putin was the picture of masculinity mere months ago, but as his ill-fated invasion of Ukraine rumbles on the despot's health appears to have declined rapidly, leaving him "weakened and feeble."

The leader has taken to bear hugging, partaking in ice hockey games and taking a submarine to the depths of the Black Sea to create his hardman persona.

But now, the 69-year-old is now a far cry from the macho man who would also bathe in deer blood to increase vitality.

Twice in as many months Putin has been pictured clutching a table feebly at meetings and has also been caught displaying other signs of weakness, as insiders revealed that he may have cancer.

During a televised chat in Moscow today (Wednesday, May 18) with Sergey Chemezov of defence company Rostec, the despot clung to the table as he did last month during a meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow, doing little to dispel the rumours.

He also coughed several times and appeared sullen and slumped as he sat across the small table from Chemezov, who he's known since their days in the KGB.

Just yesterday (Tuesday, May 17), it was reported that Putin had emergency surgery to drain fluid from his abdomen.

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An anti-Putin channel on the messaging app General SVR, which is reportedly run by a Kremlin insider, stated: "On the night of Thursday, May 12 to Friday, May 13, Putin underwent a surgical procedure to remove fluid from his abdomen."

It isn't known whether this abdomen-draining procedure was part of cancer treatment.

Russian officials have denied there is anything wrong with Putin, who will celebrate his 70th birthday in October.

But a body language expert explained that an able-bodied president "would not need to keep himself propped up with a hand held out for leverage" and "both feet planted on the ground."

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Professor Erik Bucy, from Texas Tech University, told the Sun Online: "It’s an astonishingly weakened Putin compared to the man we observed even a few years ago.

"This is not a portrait of a healthy Putin but one appearing increasingly feeble and barely able to hold himself upright at a small conference table."

Putin's image just months ago was a finely crafted one of absolute masculinty, an image he has possesed throughout his reign in top political positions in Russia.

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In 2015, Putin attempted to paint himself as Russia's answer to James Bond by taking a ride in a mini-submarine, but his biggest macho moment was perhaps when he was pictured fitting a tracking collar on a tranquilised polar bear and giving it a hug during a trip to the Arctic in 2010.

In another animal-themed tryst, he "saved" a TV crew from a Siberian Tiger during a 2008 trip to the Ussuri reserve in Siberia.

When one of the big cats reportedly escaped a trap and lunged at the camera crew, Putin was reportedly very quick to shoot the tiger with a tranquilizer gun. This, however, was not caught on camera.

In 2009 he was snapped riding a horse through the woods of Siberia, swimming laps in a lake and building a fire. All topless.

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