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© Sputnik / Aleksey Nikolskyi / Kremlin via REUTERS
The picture of health: Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with President of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhaniya at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, Russia November 12, 2020.
The Russian president is the world's sickest leader, if you believe reports in Western media, that is. Popular US and UK outlets are now claiming Vladimir Putin has Parkinson's, underwent secret surgery and is battling cancer.

While many have found 2020 to be a challenging year, for notorious Moscow conspiracy theorist Valery Solovey, it has been his best yet. He has managed to send Western news organisations into a frenzy with bombshell allegations twice in as many months. In November, he claimed Putin was suffering from a neurodegenerative condition and would soon step back from the presidency. The revelations were splashed across popular newspapers including the UK's Mail Online and the New York Post.

Valery Solovey russia propaganda conspiracy theorist
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Valery Solovey
Then, last week, the Sun and the Express in Britain picked up on his latest insights into Putin's health, reporting the Russian leader had been diagnosed with cancer and undergone an operation which had been kept secret from the world. He predicted Putin would soon name a successor and said he "intends to make public his handover plans in January."

Solovey previously claimed Putin was on the verge of quitting because of poor health in 2016 and 2017, with prestigious news outlets reporting those allegations at the time as well. Also this year, he told reporters that Moscow had a secretive coronavirus cure that it was rolling out to its elite, "those who are very close to the Kremlin, and to Mr Putin."

The president's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, shrugged off the suggestion that his boss was on the verge of death, saying "Putin is not going to resign - he is in excellent health."

The speculation came as a bill made its way through the Russian parliament that would offer legal immunity to former holders of the top job. This has prompted suggestions that the president might look to take a step back from the role in the near future.

While some commentators regularly allege that Russia is the world's disinformation capital, Putin has previously expressed concern over the way his country is covered by foreign reporters, saying "I am amazed at the gravity of the propaganda machine in the West."