The Kremlin was forced to deny Vladimir Putin has health problems as he repeatedly coughed during a televised online conference on Covid-19.
His coughing fit was later edited to not seem so acute in a version posted by his office.
The Russian president, 68, was warning of “acute financial problems” in regions due to Covid-19 when he suddenly struggled to keep speaking.
He was addressing his finance minister Anton Siluanov and other senior officials when the coughing fit started.
Putin uttered "excuse me" and repeatedly raised his right hand to his mouth as he struggled to go on.
The version of the president’s remarks later posted on the Kremlin website edited the worst of his coughing.
The scare came on Wednesday, November 18, as Russia announced a record daily coronavirus death toll of 456.
State news agency TASS asked the Kremlin about Putin’s health and was told he was “absolutely normal”.
“The president apologised and continued the meeting almost without pausing", it reported.
Radio Mayak, which had broadcast an original stream, reported: “Putin’s vocal cords gave in as he was setting his government to fight Covid-19.”
Unlike other world leaders and many Russian officials, Putin is believed so far to have avoided Covid-19.
Despite Russia having two vaccines available – one tested by his daughter Katerina, 34 – he had not been injected, it is understood.
He has remained largely isolated in recent months after a scare in April when he came into contact with infected doctors at a Moscow clinic.
Putin told the one and a half-hour meeting that the situation with coronavirus remains “critical” in many regions and he called on his finance minister to provide help.
Earlier he said: “The number of new cases is rising…and what's most alarming – the death rate is increasing”.
There are fears that Russia has downplayed the true toll, and that the real infection and death figures are significantly higher.
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