Vladimir Putin’s distinctive way of walking could be the result of KGB training, according to a new study.
European neurologists who studied Putin’s peculiar “gunslinger’s gait” notes that Putin in public appearances typically walks with a “clearly reduced right-sided arm swing.”
The authors note that the movement is the type of asymmetrical arm movement that can be an early indication of Parkinson’s disease, but conclude that since he had displayed no other tell-tale signs of the disease, it must come from something else.
The researchers, based in Portugal, Italy, and the Netherlands, say they obtained a KGB training manual and say the odd movement could stem from training he received in the security agency.
“According to this manual, KGB operatives were instructed to keep their weapon in their right hand close to their chest and to move forward with one side, usually the left, presumably allowing subjects to draw the gun as quickly as possible when confronted with a foe,” the researchers wrote.
Putin spent years in the KGB, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring at the twilight of the Soviet Union.
To test their theory, the neurologists carefully studied videos of other Russian officials. Bastiaan Bloem, a professor of movement disorder neurology at Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, says the team was “stunned” by what they saw.
Many other leading officials, such as former Russian defense minister, displayed the same walk. And most of them also received military training.
The study concludes that the arm swing is therefore likely “a behavioral adaptation resulting from military or intelligence training.”
“Indeed, we found other examples of a reduced arm swing related to weaponry training: cowboys depicted in movies of the ‘Wild West’ often have a reduced right-arm swing,” the researchers wrote.
“This motivated us to introduce the term ‘gunslinger’s gait’ to label this new gait phenotype.”
Bloem told AFP that in Putin’s case the arm swing could “in part be overlearned.”
“It’s like saying, ‘Look, folks, I’ve had KGB training, I’m a real man,'” he said.
He also insisted that the study was serious, even without Putin’s medical records.
“It is an unusual study, but there is a very serious message to it” about neurological observation, he said. “What we are putting forward, but very cautiously, is a new hypothesis.”