Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was treated for advanced cancer in April and survived an assassination attempt a month earlier, according to a US intelligence report.
Putin’s health has been the source of endless rumors and speculation, as analyst pores over footage of his public appearances looking for evidence of physical decline.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied his ill health, and US officials have also warned against wishful thinking.
But now three high-ranking intelligence agencies have told them news week that Putin’s health is the subject of intense investigation by the Biden administration and that a classified report confirms the reports of cancer treatment.
“Putin’s hold is strong, but no longer absolute,” said one of the senior intelligence officers.
“Jockeying in the Kremlin has never been more intense during his reign, everyone feels that the end is near.”
The sources — from the director of National Intelligence, the US Air Force and the Defense Intelligence Agency — agree Putin’s health is more serious than previously believed.
They said his physical exhaustion was matched by Russia’s own exhaustion as the conflict enters its fourth month.
Analysts have delved into images like this one in an effort to gauge Vladimir Putin’s health. His swollen face has sparked speculation that he is sick
Three intelligence sources said Putin’s health was in line with his country’s exhaustion from the war in Ukraine. Smoke rises here in the city of Severodonetsk during fierce fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in the eastern region of Donbas
A man walks next to badly damaged buildings and vandalized cars after Russian attacks in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine
And the intelligence assessments also confirm an assassination attempt in March, officials say.
However, they warned that some sources of information had evaporated since the start of the war and that Putin’s isolation had made it more difficult to assess his condition.
“What we know is that there is an iceberg, even though it is covered in fog,” the DNI leader said.
Meanwhile, the DIA official said Putin’s reduction in outside meetings had also stifled information.
“Putin has had few meetings with foreign leaders,” said the source.
“So Putin’s isolation has led to more speculation.”
That speculation has led to repeated denials from the Kremlin.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied on Sunday that Putin was sick or dying.
“President Vladimir Putin appears in public every day,” he told French television.
‘You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his performances. I don’t think sane people can see signs of some disease or ill health.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the fact that viewers can see Putin on screens and read his speeches disproves any idea that the Russian leader was unwell
He added that reports of Putin’s ill health “should be left on the conscience of those who spread such rumours.”
His statements come amid reports that the Kremlin is reusing old images of Putin for various meetings.
An FSB officer was quoted in the media on May 29 as warning that Putin has only three years to live amid speculation about his health.
And former British spy Christopher Steele, who wrote a dossier on Donald Trump and alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, has also suggested Putin is in ill health.
“Of course, from what we’re hearing from sources in Russia and elsewhere, Putin is in fact quite seriously ill,” he recently told Sky News.
But he admitted it was unclear what was wrong with him.
“It’s not clear exactly what this disease is — whether it’s incurable or terminal, or whatever. But sure, I think it’s part of the equation,” he added.
A former Soviet spy has claimed Putin has Parkinson’s disease, while research website Proekt said the Russian leader may have thyroid cancer.
Heavy fighting is underway in the eastern Donbas region, but fighting is also taking place west of Kherson as Ukraine counterattacks
One source of intrigue is Putin’s April 21 meeting with his defense minister.
Putin grabbed the table with his right hand as soon as he sat down, holding it for the entire meeting.
Some observers took it as evidence of Parkinson’s disease, while others suggested it was just his old KGB weapons training and that he remained ready to reach for a gun.
“Someone who was once seen as omnipotent is now mostly seen as someone who struggles with the future, especially his own,” the DNI leader said.
Senior Russian officials are said to plot a government without Putin after Kremlin sources claimed the Russian president turned almost everyone against him during the invasion of Ukraine.
A government source last week told Russian-Latvian outlet Meduza that “there are hardly any people who are satisfied with Putin” among Kremlin officials and Russian elites.
“Businessmen and many members of the government are unhappy that the president started the war without thinking about the extent of the sanctions – it is impossible to live with such sanctions,” the source said, a sentiment later confirmed by two other government insiders. †