- Associated Press - Thursday, October 28, 2010

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Was it a flying elbow during judo practice? A little nip and tuck? Or exhaustion from too many flights?

Russian and Ukrainian media speculated feverishly Thursday over what could have caused two dark patches under Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s eyes. This was not just tabloid fodder — even the respected daily Kommersant joined in.

Mr. Putin wore heavy makeup at a meeting Wednesday with Ukraine’s pro-Russian leadership, but yellow foundation could barely cover up bluish, bruise-like blemishes and puffiness on his cheek bones.

Mr. Putin, a confident orator who speaks with enthusiasm and humor, appeared tired and under the weather in Kiev. His remarks to the press were brief and he decided to take no questions.

Mr. Putin’s spokesman denied there was anything amiss.

“There are no bruises there,” Dmitry Peskov told the Associated Press. “He was just really tired after several flights and extra meetings. Also, the light may have fallen on him in an unfortunate manner.”

Still, the discoloration of Mr. Putin’s face was the talk of his visit.

“Where does this bruise under the prime minister’s eye come from?” the Russian newspaper Kommersant inquired. “Could it be the result of a tough sparring? Carefully retouched but still noted by everybody.”

Mr. Putin is a black belt in judo.

The Ukrainian newspaper Levy Bereg was more blunt. “Did Putin have a facelift?” was the headline on its online story.

The paper’s story suggested Mr. Putin either had plastic surgery, underwent a complicated dental procedure that left his face puffy or had an unfortunate judo fight.


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