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Putin reportedly playing hockey at the weekend

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Vladimir Putin was “playing hockey” at the weekend, the Kremlin has said, dismissing rumors the Russian president may be suffering from a secret medical illness.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday told NBC News: “I can tell you one thing that yesterday, I know, in the afternoon, actually he played hockey. It’s about yesterday, he was playing hockey, and then think about his health by yourself.”

Peskov has called the rumors about the president’s health ridiculous and denied several times that he’s terminally ill, as has been suggested in some reports.

Pressed by NBC News senior international correspondent Keir Simmons to address the rumours once and for all, Putin’s spokesman also pointed to the president’s lengthy speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last week to dispel widespread speculation about his health.

He said Putin spoke for three-and-a-half hours, before taking part in a panel discussion. “Just think, if an unhealthy man can perform like that,” Peskov went onto say.

The war is now into its 17th week, and Russian attacks have largely been focused on eastern Ukraine with the declared aim of “liberating” the Luhansk and Donetsk regions which jointly make up the Donbas.

Russian-backed separatists control part of the regions and the Russian president wants them entirely in pro-Russian hands.

If his forces capture Severodonetsk, it would give Moscow control of the whole of Luhansk – and would be his biggest victory in the invasion so far.

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