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Russia's Putin Jokes That Reporter With Brain Injuries Is Drunk

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He is normally known for his surefooted public performances — but Russia’s Vladimir Putin made an unfortunate gaffe Thursday during his annual televised news conference. Putin made a joke about a journalist being drunk after he asked the president a rambling question during the three-hour event. However, it later emerged that the reporter had suffered two strokes and a brain injury that slowed his speech.

Vladimir Mamatov, a Kirov-based journalist for the Reporter newspaper, asked Putin about economics before posing a follow-up question about the production of kvass, a local drink made from fermented bread and malt that is mildly alcoholic. “A very down-to-earth question… we produce kvas in my town…” Mamatov began. “I have a feeling you've had some kvas already,” Putin replied, prompting laughter.

It was, perhaps, an odd enough remark — kvas usually contains only about one percent alcohol — but it came to embarrass both Putin and other journalists who wrongly assumed Mamatov was intoxicated. An employee at the Reporter, who declined to be identified, confirmed to NBC News that Mamatov has suffered two strokes and a brain injury and that his speech is slow. Russia Today posted a correction on its Twitter feed and the incident was reported by Russian media outlets, including LifeNews.

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— Alastair Jamieson

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