Is Russian President Vladimir Putin healthy? Or is he suffering from a terminal disease that’s affecting his mental state?
Three anonymous senior U.S. intelligence officials who saw a classified U.S. report say Putin was treated for advanced cancer in April, according to an exclusive report published by Newsweek.
The intelligence officials, one from the office of the Director of National Intelligence, one a retired Air Force senior officer, and one from the Defense Intelligence Agency, also confirmed that Putin, 69, survived an assassination attempt in March that was first reported by Ukrainian intelligence.
Details are minimal, but officials say it happened two months ago during the start of Russia’s brutal invasion of its neighbor.
All three officials said the Russian leader is increasingly paranoid with his hold on power.
“Putin’s grip is strong but no longer absolute,” one of the senior intelligence officers with direct access to the reports told Newsweek. “The jockeying inside the Kremlin has never been more intense during his rule, everyone sensing that the end is near.”
But the officials also point out that the Russian president’s recent absence from the spotlight in April has made it more difficult for U.S. intelligence agencies to observe and theorize about Putin’s health and his hold on the Russian government.
Russian propaganda has always painted the former KGB strongman as an example of health and masculinity with his bare-chested horseback riding and hockey playing.
Putin has recently tried to keep up appearances after his brief absence from the world stage amid the Ukrainian war.
For example, on Friday, Putin met with the Senegalese President and the chairman of the African Union Macky Sall in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia for talks expected to focus on how to get grain supplies, stuck amid the fighting in Ukraine, moving again. He also appeared on Russian television giving a few brief opening remarks before the talks began.
Photographs of the meeting show the Russian president relaxed and interested in the discussions with Sall.
But the Defense Intelligence Agency official also warned that even if he has serious health problems, the Russian president is still dangerous.
“Putin is definitely sick … whether he’s going to die soon is mere speculation,” the DIA official told Newsweek. “Still, we shouldn’t rest assured. We shouldn’t answer our own mail, if you will, believing only the intelligence that affirms our own desired outcome. He’s still dangerous, and chaos does lie ahead if he does die. We need to focus on that. Be ready.”