THIS is the moment Vladimir Putin seems to gasp and gasp during a meeting with grieving mothers whose sons were murdered in Ukraine.
Russia’s president, who is reportedly “gravely ill”, met a handpicked group of parents as he sat down with them over tea, cakes and fresh berries.
Putin appeared physically uncomfortable and out of breath as he spoke, pausing to clear his throat on multiple occasions and struggling with his words.
“I would like you to know that I personally and the entire leadership of the country share your pain,” Vlad told the women at a gathering at his official residence.
“We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a child, especially for a mother…we share this pain.”
Angry mothers and wives raged at the “shame” of how Putin avoided them and their complaints about using their men as cannon fodder.
Rumors about Putin’s health continue to circulate after he was photographed this week with a discolored hand while meeting his Cuban counterpart.
He appeared shaky, unsteady and was seen clutching his chair amid rumors that he has cancer and Parkinson’s.
It follows claims by senior Ukrainian figures that Putin fears he will be killed if he loses the war in Ukraine, so he is “fighting for his life.”
And secret spy documents revealed by The Sun Online showed fears for Vlad’s health as the tyrant turned 70 last month.
Putin put on a brave face when meeting with the mothers and wives, but the meeting, like most of Putin’s appearances, was carefully staged.
Putin’s officials barred him from meeting mothers who wanted to express their anger at the way their men have been endangered by their chaotic mobilization.
It is not clear if he knew the mother of the Russian soldiers killed or maimed in Ukraine, a number the United States says is over 100,000.
Russian journalists were quick to identify some of the women selected to meet Putin as loyal acquaintances.
Ironically, Putin told the 17 “mothers” to beware of “falsifications, deceptions and lies” on the web about his war in Ukraine.
“Nothing can be trusted” on the internet about the conflict, he said.
It’s a shame to watch this reunion staged
The women seemed happy, if not overwhelmed, to meet him and the 17 eagerly posed for a group photo with him.
However, her own meeting was hailed as an embarrassing hoax by angry mothers with real grievances about the war that went unvoiced at her pre-recorded televised meeting with “mothers.”
Abbas Galyamov, a political analyst and former Putin speechwriter, said: “This is obviously a shame.”
This was echoed by the father Dmitry Shkrebets of a conscript sailor lost on the Moskva flagship sunk by the lost Ukrainian.
“It’s a shame to see this reunion staged,” he said.
Unlike others he met recently, Putin did not socially distance, raising the question of whether the women had been in quarantine before meeting him.
It is not clear what was said in a closed session of the tea and cake session, but there was no critical comment from any of the mothers in attendance on state television.
However, before the session, a woman, Olga Tsukanova, 46, from Samara, whose 20-year-old son went missing after being mobilized, taunted the dictator: “Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin]are you a man or what?
A plea to join the session was denied.
In a sign of growing opposition to their war and rumors of a new round of mobilization, Tsukanova, head of the Council of Wives and Mothers, had asked: “Do you have the courage to look us in the eye, openly, in a meeting with women that weren’t handpicked for you…?
“Women who are not in your pocket, but real mothers who have traveled here from different cities on their own, to meet with you?
“We are here, in Moscow, and we are ready to meet with you.
We await a response from you.
“Are you going to keep hiding from us?”
She and her council were excluded from Putin’s meeting, amid mounting anger in Russia.
Putin had foolishly hoped to crush Ukraine and have its soldiers greeted as “liberators” but have faced a fierce response.
The cities and regions conquered at the beginning of the war in late February are now being retaken by the Ukrainians.
The West is firmly backing Kyiv, loading them with the weapons they need to defeat Russia.
Many now see Putin’s future as tied to war, especially since he has officially annexed parts of eastern Ukraine.
The liberation of Kherson now opens the door to Crimea, the territory illegally seized by Russia in 2014.
The return of the peninsula to Ukrainian hands would be an unprecedented failure for Putin.