PARIS • Russian President Vladimir Putin walks with a curious "gunslinger's gait" - a reduced swing in his right arm which he may have acquired through KGB weapons training, an unusual study published this week said.
The research, published in British medical journal The BMJ, was written by a team of neurologists in Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands.
The specialists, who analyse postures and movements that are potential signs of health disorders, say they were struck by Mr Putin's "distinct" way of walking. Video footage shows that when Mr Putin walks, his left arm swings normally but his right arm barely moves.
Asymmetrical movement like this is often a tell-tale sign of Parkinson's disease. But the doctors found no other symptoms of this disease in the 63-year-old leader such as tremor, rigidity or poor coordination. Instead, they found he had "excellent motor skills", as a judo black belt, weightlifter and swimmer, and his handwriting was fast and signature tremble-free.
But their investigations turned up an intriguing alternative explanation in the form of a training manual used by the former Soviet intelligence service, the KGB.
The manual instructs an operative to keep his weapon in his right hand close to his chest and move forward with one side - usually the left - "turned somewhat in the direction of movement".
Wondering whether prolonged and intensive training in this method could explain Mr Putin's gait, as he was a KGB operative in the Cold War, the team carried out a trawl on YouTube for videos of other Russian officials. The researchers found the characteristic walk in Premier Dmitry Medvedev, two former defence ministers - Mr Anatoly Serdyukov and Mr Sergei Ivanov - and Mr Anatoly Sidorov, a senior military commander. Mr Putin and Mr Ivanov are both former KGB officials, while Mr Serdyukov and Mr Sidorov had military training, the study notes.
Mr Medvedev, in contrast, does not have clear links to either the military or the KGB. "Substantial evidence suggests that Medvedev is being coached to sound, look and, most importantly, walk like the President," the study says.