Russian President Vladimir Putin’s distinctive walk, where his right arm rests rigidly to his body, may have been acquired through KGB weapons training, according to a study published Monday.
A team of neurologists in the Netherlands, Portugal, and Italy published a research paper in the British Medical Journal which analyzes the Russian leaders unique way of walking describing it as a “gunslinger’s gait.” The study was published in the Christmas edition of the BMJ which looks at more quirky or offbeat topics.
While some media reports have speculated the lack of movement in his right arm when he walks is the result of a stroke or Parkinson’s disease, the study suggests the unique walk may have been picked up while training in the former Soviet intelligence service, the KGB.
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“Searching for possible explanations, we encountered a training manual of the former Russian KGB,” the author’s said in the study. “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.”
Dutch neurologist and movement disorder expert Bastiaan Bloem, who’s the lead author on the study, had considered Putin’s reduced arm swing to be an early indication of Parkinson’s disease.
However, after studying several videos of Putin they found no other symptoms of nervous system disease, such as tremors or lack of coordination. In fact the researchers found he displayed “excellent motor skills,” as a judo black belt, weight lifter and swimmer. Putin’s handwriting too, is fast and steady.
Bloem and his research team examined other high-ranking Russian officials, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, former defence ministers Anatoly Serdyukov and Sergei Ivanov, and Col. Gen. Anatoly Sidorov. They found each official had the signature “gunslinger’s gait.”
“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 authors write.
“This motivated us to introduce the term “gunslinger’s gait” to label this new gait phenotype.”
Putin and Ivanov are both former KGB agents, while Serdyukov and Sidorov received military training, according to the study.
Medvedev, however, has no clear links to the millitary the KGB. So why would he walk like Putin?
“Substantial evidence suggests that Medvedev is being coached to sound, look, and importantly, walk like the president,” the study says.