Multiple reports out of Russia claim President Vladimir Putin will undergo surgery linked to cancer soon and be out of the public eye for days, handing over wartime power to a hardline colleague.
The Daily Mail quotes a “Kremlin insider” as saying the surgery is of “no particular urgency,” though other sources sharply dispute this. The 69-year-old Putin is widely believed to be suffering from health issues after recent videos show the leader seemingly unsteady on his feet and tightly gripping a table while meeting with his defense minister.
Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev is reported to be taking the reins of the Ukraine invasion while Putin is out of commission. Patrushev is the former head of the Federal Security Service, the successor to the Soviet Union’s notorious KGB. He is also blamed for convincing the Russian president that Ukraine is filled with neo-Nazis.
The source for much of the medical information coming out of the Kremlin is the General SVR Telegram channel, an unofficial and popular source of information in Moscow. The channel reports that Putin’s personal doctors want to operate soon, which contradicts other reports. It was also the first to claim 18 months ago that the president suffers from Parkinson’s, a suspicion that has garnered much support in recent weeks.
Another Russian investigative news outlet, Proekt, says Putin has been visited at least 35 times by a thyroid cancer specialist. It reports that Yevgeny Selivanov, an oncology surgeon, repeatedly flew to the despot’s Black Sea residence and that a team of doctors now accompany him on trips.
Two other ear, nose, and throat specialists are reported by the news outlet to have spent even more time with the president. Journalists examine hotel accommodation contracts on the Kremlin’s government procurement website to reach their conclusions. The report from Proekt also says Putin now bathes in blood extract from deer antlers, a folk medicine treatment believed to aid the cardiovascular system.
Despite photographic evidence of bloating in Putin’s face, a common symptom of using steroids to fight thyroid cancer, the Kremlin insists that the president’s health is great. But reports continue to dispute this assessment, and there is too much at stake globally for this lack of clarity.