Vladimir Putin has been terminally ill for a “very long” period and may die soon, Ukraine’s head of military intelligence has claimed.
Kyrylo Budanov said Kyiv believes the 70-year-old Russian leader is suffering from cancer, citing sources close to the president.
“He has been sick for a long time; I am sure he has cancer. I think he will die very quickly. I hope very soon,” he told ABC News.
When ABC correspondent Britt Clennett suggested the “transfer of power” following’s Putin’s death will not necessarily mean the end to the invasion, Budanov said the conflict “should be ended” before he dies.
Pressed on how exactly Kyiv knows about Putin’s condition, Budanov said: “We think it’s cancer. We know it, we just know it, from human sources.”
Since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in February, there have been frequent reports that the leader is suffering from some kind of illness, including claims of either cancer or Parkinson’s disease.
The rumours appear to have originated from leaked audio, obtained by New Lines magazine, in which a Kremlin-linked oligarch appeared to suggest Putin had blood cancer and was “very ill”.
However, a former CIA officer warned the publication that Moscow has an “instinct” to spread disinformation, and that encouraging chatter may be part of its plan.
Throughout 2022, a number of photos emerged appearing to show track marks on Putin’s hands, which some, including a former British Army chief, have suggested could mean he is receiving intravenous drips.
Video footage of Putin gripping onto a desk in an apparent attempt to stop his hands shaking have led to further rumours, while others have suggested photos in which his face appears “puffy” could mean he is taking steroids as part cancer treatment.
US intelligence appears divided over whether the former KGB agent really is terminally ill.
Officials told Newsweek in June that they believed Putin was treated for “advanced cancer” in April, but the following month CIA director William Burns told a security conference: “As far as we can tell he’s entirely too healthy”.
In June, defence and security expert Professor Michael Clarke said there was “no convincing evidence” that Putin has Parkinson’s or cancer, adding that the “little team of doctors” he keeps with him may just mean he’s a “hypochondriac”.
The Kremlin has denied claims that Putin is in poor health, with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov telling French TV channel TF1: “I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment.”
Despite the denials, speculation has remained rife, and Putin’s decision to cancel his end of year press conference for the first time in a decade added fuel to the fire.
As the Kremlin offered no explanation for the cancellation, some suggested this was another sign of his ailing health.
However, the UK Ministry of Defence tweeted: “Although questions are almost certainly usually vetted in advance, the cancellation is likely due to increasing concerns about the prevalence of anti-war feeling in Russia.”