The Kremlin has denied reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning to step down due to health problems, the Russian state-owned TASS news agency reports.
Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said the president has "excellent health" and "is not going to resign". It came after British tabloid The Sun reported "Moscow sources" as having growing fears about the Russian leader's health. Recent footage of Putin, 68, "suggests he has possible symptoms of Parkinson's Disease," the newspaper said, quoting Moscow political scientist Professor Valery Solovei.
The report came as Russian MPs consider lifetime immunity from prosecution for former presidents, a move which has prompted speculation that Putin could be preparing for retirement. Russian lawmakers have introduced two bills to parliament this week that provide special provisions for former presidents.
The first would entitle a former president to a lifetime seat as a senator in Russia's Federation Council, a position that automatically comes with immunity from prosecution. The second would specifically give former presidents - so Putin after he steps down - lifetime immunity from criminal prosecution if and when they decide to leave office. It would apply to any offenses committed during his lifetime. Currently, ex-presidents are protected for actions taken only while they were in office.
The bills follow Russia's adoption of constitutional amendments that "reset" Putin's term limits, allowing him to potentially run twice more for president and remain in office until 2036 when he would be 84. He has ruled the country, mostly as president but also as prime minister, since 2000.
The bills will need to pass three readings in the lower house, then the upper house, before being signed by Putin to enter into law. When asked if the president was about to resign, spokesman Peskov flatly responded: "No."
He said: "[His] health is excellent" and that "there is nothing special to comment on." The press secretary called The Sun report "complete nonsense" and said: "The president is doing well [with his health]".
Meanwhile, the Kremlin is staying tight-lipped regarding the result of the U.S. election. Peskov said on Thursday, "it's impossible to make comments in the current situation" and to do so would be "like a red rag to a bull." Uncertainty in the U.S. "could potentially have negative consequences for global affairs," he said.
Political analysts in Russia are pessimistic over any chances of the election's eventual winner pushing for improved relations between Moscow and Washington.
Leonid Slutsky, chair of the parliamentary international affairs committee, wrote on Facebook that an "anti-Russian" agenda had been playing out within U.S. politics and, no matter who won, "there is no need to expect any changes for the better in Russian-American relations, and that is very unfortunate."