WASHINGTON — I have not seen Russian President Vladimir Putin passing through the Russian outback with his shirt off lately. Have you? He used to ride around the countryside shirtless and on horseback. I am told he would brag about how he could pump iron and do pushups with ease. His boasts always reminded me of President Joe Biden’s boasts about taking President Donald Trump out behind the “garage” or the “barn” or some other imagined locale for fisticuffs. Nothing ever came of it, fortunately for Joe.

Now all President Putin does is sit solitarily at a long table in the Kremlin, a loyal aide seated at the far end of the table, apparently conversing with him. I do not speak Russian so I cannot verify this. Possibly what passes between them is canned conversation like the canned laughter on an American television show. It might as well be canned conversation. Frankly, Putin looks unwell.

Apparently, there are gossipists both in and out of Russia who trade ceaselessly in stories about Putin’s vital organs and poor health. Last week the story was that Putin was seen crossing Red Square and betraying signs of a limp. That is not a serious affliction. Perhaps he had put his left-footed shoe on his right foot, or maybe his socks had holes in them. Putin has a lot on his mind these days. He has ordered thousands of troops to maneuver around in Ukraine with maps that were drawn up in Czarist times. The troops are hungry, and many have not had a drink in several days. Besides that, their guns jam, as many are from World War II, and it is difficult to find ammunition for them.

More serious is the rumor revealed by Kyrylo Budanov of Ukrainian intelligence. He reports that Putin has cancer and is not expected to live. There are also reports that the president suffers from headaches, blurred vision and — I find this strange — a numb tongue. Imagine a politician with a numb tongue! There are also reports of his suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, and there have been times when Putin had partial loss of sensation in his right arm and leg. He has also been troubled by coughing spells, as has, by the way, our own president. The list of illnesses lengthens, but I think I have conveyed the heart of the matter. This is not the Vladimir Putin we knew from years gone by, gayly heaving martial arts partners in the air and working up a sweat. Today he only sweats when an aide comes in with the week’s casualty list.

Moreover, there is that report last week that the “elites” are getting anxious. Many of them have had their embarrassingly cumbersome yachts confiscated while overseas and their vast estates seized. Possibly the elites will never see these baubles of ill-gotten wealth again. Possibly President Putin will never see his baubles of ill-gotten wealth either, though they are not stashed overseas. He is afraid to leave the country.

I have a suggestion for President Putin. Why not simply declare victory during one of your long-winded diatribes in the Kremlin and retire to one of your estates. One that is easily defended against incoming missiles and drones. Recently a drone bounced off the roof at the Kremlin. Missiles could be next. Over the weekend The Washington

Post reported that, “a spate of unprecedented incursions by paramilitary groups into western Russian regions bordering Ukraine are raising questions over whether Putin can control the situation, according to several members of the Russian elite, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.” Those “paramilitary groups” are not composed of Ukrainians but more likely indigenous Russians. The Post went on to report that a Russian pollster with connections to the Russian elites has concluded that another Russian setback in the war with Ukraine “will mean a very serious failure.” Putin, it is time to retire.

Glory to Ukraine!

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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