Russian President Vladimir Putin used a popular Mark Twain misquote, on Friday, while speaking at the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. He stated, “Like Mark Twain once said: ‘The rumours about my death were greatly exaggerated”, as per The Guardian. 

Fortune and Business Insider reported via The Guardian that Putin’s statements came as a response to reports of his failing health. 

Notably, as per Twain’s biographer Albert Paine, the Tom Sawyer author had said “The report of my death has been grossly exaggerated” when a reporter had asked him about his failing health. 

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Putin’s health has reportedly been on the decline for years, with Ukraine’s head of military intelligence, noting in May that the 69-year-old is “very sick” with cancer. A recent report from The Sunday Times alleged that Putin has blood cancer, while The Independent reported he was shaking while greeting his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, in mid-February, giving rise to speculation that Putin’s battling Parkinson’s disease

However, Russian state-controlled media RT noted that Putin quoted Twain to show that the sanctions by the West hadn’t been successful. 

Amid reports of Putin’s failing health, the Russian president continues his war efforts in Ukraine, which have been labelled as a “special military operation“. Having sent in troops on February 24, vowing to “denazify” the neighbouring country, Putin has suffered a loss of troops and military equipment. The weight of global sanctions has also impacted Russia’s economy, with Kremlin acknowledging the damage US President Joe Biden’s sanctions caused. 

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However, Putin hasn’t budged, and the only alteration in the months since troops first entered, is that the military tactics have changed. The traditional pincer has been abandoned in favour of a push from the east, entering through the separatist Donbas region. Russia has also staked its claim in the southern part of Ukraine and has established control over the Black and Azov Seas.

The conflict has backfired on Putin, somewhat, since Russia wanted decreased NATO presence in eastern Europe, but the Russian president’s actions have led countries like Sweden and Finland to sign up to be part of the military bloc.