Aston University’s Dr Carl Senior said the Russian leader was a ‘shadow’ of the man he was as images circulated of his more puffy face and the oddly long table than he insists on installing himself in the meeting rooms of the Kremlin. Dr Senior told Express.co.uk: “Even the most despotic rulers in history have found prolonged war to be emotionally and psychically draining. The daily accounting of death cannot be maintained.
The true death toll for Russian forces in Ukraine is difficult to verify, but a report of an intercepted phone call late last month suggested the figure could be within reach of 26,000.
Ukrainian authorities put the figure at around 22,800, but the British government opted for a more conservative estimate of 15,000.
But the only official figure that comes out of Moscow is 1,351 dead.
There has been no updated information from Russian leaders since March 25, when they added that 3,825 soldiers had been injured in the war in Ukraine.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, admitted only “significant losses” in an interview with Sky News, adding that the deaths were a “tragedy” for Russia.
But waging a war that lasts far longer than Russia’s leader may have initially thought, Dr Senior said, “Putin is showing clear signs of deterioration.”
The war has made him a “shadow of a man”, which is clear through the “open symbology” deployed by the Russian leader.
Dr Senior described the contrast between the image Putin has strived to maintain in previous years and the bizarre table he often jams in meetings.
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This table, he added, has become almost a “physical barrier of protection”.
Dr Senior continued: “He metamorphosed from a bear-breasted action man riding a horse in the Siberian outback to a shadowy man hiding behind comically massive desks.
“Here, the overt symbology of power has been subverted and accentuated so that the emphasis acts almost like a physical barrier of protection.”
This table plays a key role in Vladimir Putin’s meetings with world leaders, including a recent meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
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Between the Russian leader and the Portuguese diplomat was a table five meters long.
But there could be two explanations for the design decision, Dr Patrick Stewart of the University of Arkansas told Express.co.uk.
One might fear a Covid infection, but another could be a more subtle explanation, Professor Stewart suggested.
The length of the table, and therefore the significant space between the leaders, could “be more of an indicator and an emphasis on the distance between the two parties to reach an agreement”.
A similar arrangement hosted French President Emmanuel Macron during his trip to Moscow in February.
The French leader traveled to the Kremlin for talks with Putin over Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border, just before Russia launched its invasion.
But Mr Macron refused to take a Russian COVID-19 test, fearing Russia was keeping his DNA on file, according to sources close to the president.
A source told Reuters: “We knew full well that meant no handshake and that long table. But we couldn’t accept them getting their hands on the president’s DNA.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Macron’s refusal to take a Russian-administered PCR test was not a problem, but meant the French president would keep a constant distance of six meters from Putin .
He added: “There is no politics in this, it does not interfere with the negotiations in any way.”