Kremlin rejects Putin health rumours, says he is fine

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July 21 (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was in good health, dismissing rumours that he is unwell.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters there had been speculation in the West about the president’s health in recent months, but reports he was ill were “nothing but fakes”.

Earlier, the director of the CIA has said  there is no intelligence that Vladimir Putin is unstable or in bad health,.

There has been increasing unconfirmed media speculation that Mr Putin, who turns 70 this year, may be suffering from ill health, possibly cancer.

But William Burns said there was no evidence to suggest this, joking that he appeared “too healthy”.

In Other Developments:

ECONOMY

* The head of Germany’s energy regulator said flows of Russian gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline could reach a pre-maintenance level of 40% capacity on Thursday but political uncertainty around supplies remained.  He and the economy minister will give statements at 1200 GMT.

* Ukraine’s central bank devalued the hryvnia currency by 25% against the U.S. dollar because of the impact of the war with Russia.

* Ukraine’s western creditor governments urged bondholders on Wednesday to accept Kyiv’s request for a two-year delay on its debt payments and said they would suspend payments owed to them. 

FIGHTING

* Ukrainian forces fighting in the south and east of the country said they had killed 111 Russian soldiers and destroyed 17 vehicles in 24 hours and that they saw no signs the Russians were creating special strike groups.

* One of the most densely populated areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city, is being shelled, mayor Igor Terekhov said on Telegram, asking people not to leave shelters. The regional governor said two people had been killed and 19 wounded.

* Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the eastern Luhansk region, which Russian forces fully captured earlier this month, said on Telegram that “there is probably not a single square metre of land left untouched by Russian artillery”.

* The governor of the neighbouring Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, urged people to evacuate, saying Russian forces had destroyed schools in Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka and shelled the industrial part of Kramatorsk and central Bakhmut.

* Vitaly Kim, governor of Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine, said the region had been targeted with seven S300 missiles, with one person wounded and impacts on infrastructure, energy facilities and storage areas.

*Russia’s defence ministry said on Thursday its forces had shot down a Ukrainian SU-25 military plane near Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine.

DIPLOMACY

* European Union diplomats meeting in Brussels agreed a new round of sanctions against Moscow on Wednesday for invading Ukraine, including a ban on importing Russian gold and a freeze on the assets of the country’s top lender Sberbank. 

* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dismissed the sanctions, the seventh round from the EU, as inadequate.

* Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska appealed to U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday to provide more help to her country as it struggles against the five-month-long Russian invasion, saying weapons could help assure a “joint great victory.” 

* Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday there had been no contact with the United States over peace talks with Ukraine.”The American administration forbids its wards in Kyiv to even think about talks with us, and evidently forces them to fight to the last Ukrainian,” Zakharova told reporters.Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have been frozen since early April, when ceasefire talks brokered by Turkey in Istanbul collapsed.

QUOTE

Berlin resident Michaela Boyen, asked about gas flows resuming on the pipeline from Russia:

“For consumers it can be positive of course if there is a positive impact on gas prices. Especially for poorer households this news can have a calming effect,” she told Reuters. “On a political level, it’s maybe not good news so I’m somewhat torn.”

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