Putin health fears as he pulls out of ice hockey game after axing TV interview

Just days after Vladimir Putin announced he was dodging his annual set piece press conference in Moscow, he has now pulled out of an ice hockey match.

The move will raise new speculation about his health now the dictator has cancelled an appearance at the amateur league that he himself established in 2011.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, confirmed the Russian President would not attend the event in Moscow's Red Square.

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On Monday, it was also reported that he would miss his annual press conference, most likely to avoid him being quizzed about Russian war failures in Ukraine.

The major end-of-year session usually takes place between December 14 and 23 – but the Kremlin announced it would not go ahead.

At the annual press conference he routinely faces questions from 500-plus Russian and foreign journalists in a major event that is televised live and can last more than four hours.

The decision to cancel the conference came even though reports suggested he had already decided Western media should be banned from the event amid the war in Ukraine.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin would find a way to communicate with the Kremlin “pool” – mainly loyalist journalists, many from the state media — despite aborting the live session which was one of the highlights of his year.

He also indicated a press conference could take place in the New Year but gave no specified date or format.

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Putin had earlier postponed his annual live Direct Line question and answer session with ordinary Russians amid evident concerns he would face complaints over the war and his chaotic mobilisation.

The announcement will fuel suspicions that Putin is running scared of scrutiny of his handling of the war which he calls a special military operation, or that at the age of 70 he is not sufficiently healthy to endure the long sessions when he is under the world's gaze amid a string of rumours surrounding his health.

There has been significant speculation about Putin's medical condition including persistent – but unproven – rumours that he is suffering from cancer, and other conditions.

There are also rumours he underwent minor surgery at the weekend after an alleged fall down the stairs at an official residence.

The Kremlin denied he suffered a fall in which he soiled himself.

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