Forget the nuclear liability dispute over Kudankulam, the 2G licenses controversy and delays in the delivery of INS Vikramaditya as reasons for the postponement of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India scheduled for early November.

It is serious health problems that forced Mr Putin to put off his visit to New Delhi by almost two months, Reuters reported on Friday. The news agency quoted three Russian government sources as claiming Mr Putin was suffering from back trouble that may require surgery.

The sources said Mr Putin had cancelled foreign visits to clear his schedule for early November. Reuters mentioned the visits to Pakistan, Turkey and India that did not take place. However, India was the only destination where Mr Putin was expected to travel in early November; the other two visits had been scheduled for October.

Mr Putin’s press secretary categorically denied the health rumours.

“It is one of those cases when one should not trust anonymous sources,” Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency. “For my part I can say that this [claim of ill health] does not correspond to reality.”

Asked why Mr Putin was seen limping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Community summit in Vladivostok in September, his press secretary said his boss had pulled a leg muscle.

“This is an absolutely natural thing to happen to a man who exercises a lot,” Mr Peskov said.

A judo black belt Mr. Putin is famous for his love for sports – he also goes for swimming, mountain skiing and horse riding. His fitness helped him win initial popularity with Russians when he replaced ailing and hard-drinking Boris Yeltsin 12 years ago.

However, the Kremlin explanation failed to convince Russian media. Journalists recalled that Mr Putin’s gait has recently changed and occasionally he appears to be walking in a slightly stooped way. One government official told Reuters that Mr Putin had been seen recently wearing a back brace.