The squabble started when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told an audience at Davos that he’s not entirely convinced the Russian leader is still among the living.
“I don’t quite understand who to speak with and about what. I’m not sure the president of Russia, who sometimes appears against a green screen, is the right one. I don’t quite understand if he is alive, if he is making the decisions, or who is making the decisions there,” he said, according to Ukrainska Pravda.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov quickly hit back—without actually addressing the condition of the Russian leader.
“Clearly, Zelensky would prefer for neither Russia nor Putin to exist. The sooner he realizes that Russia exists and will exist, the better for such a country as Ukraine,” Peskov said in comments published by Russian media.
Putin famously canceled his year-end press conference for the first time in 10 years in December, along with his traditional address to the Federal Assembly. The Russian president has also been widely mocked on social media for attending a range of meetings and key events via video link from his bunker, even as Zelensky has made trips to some of the most dangerous spots on the frontline.
While Putin did take a trip to St. Petersburg this week and appear publicly for several events, the Kremlin stoked further suspicions about Putin’s health Thursday with the announcement that the Russian leader had taken a dip in icy waters to mark the Orthodox Christian feast of Epiphany, in keeping with his annual tradition—but said no one would ever see proof he’d done so.
“This time there are no photos or videos. We are just informing you that he followed his tradition,” Peskov said.