The US intelligence community believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s health is suffering and that he’s being treated for cancer, according to a new report.
The assessment, attributed by Newsweek to high-ranking officials at three separate intelligence agencies, comes after months of speculation that the Russian strongman is suffering from terminal ailments.
“Putin is definitely sick,” an official from the office of the Director of National Intelligence told the outlet, while noting, “whether he’s going to die soon is mere speculation.”
Two other officials — one from the Defense Intelligence Agency and one retired Air Force officer — also claimed to have access to a comprehensive intelligence assessment of Putin’s health, and said the outlook for the Russian leader is bleak, according to the report.
The assessment supports the theory that Putin was missing from the world stage for much of April because he was undergoing treatment for advanced cancer, the report said.
“Is Putin sick? Absolutely,” the retired Air Force officer said. “But we shouldn’t let waiting for his death drive proactive actions on our part. A power vacuum after Putin could be very dangerous for the world.”
The intelligence community also reportedly believes that Putin is increasingly paranoid about his hold on power — and that he may have survived an assassination attempt in March.
“Putin’s grip is strong but no longer absolute,” one of the senior intelligence officers said. “The jockeying inside the Kremlin has never been more intense during his rule, everyone sensing that the end is near.”
The officials also warned that as Putin has become increasingly isolated, access to credible intelligence has become more difficult to obtain.
“One source of our best intelligence, which is contact with outsiders, largely dried up as a result of the Ukraine war,” the senior DIA official said, noting that as Putin has fewer meetings with foreign leaders, there are fewer opportunities to learn about his condition.
“We need to be mindful of the influence of wishful thinking,” the retired Air Force leader said.
Still, the sources said that following televised appearance in April — in which the Russian leader was seen awkwardly gripping a table while meeting with his defense minister — the intelligence community told the White House that Putin was ill and most likely dying.
Rumors of Putin’s imminent demise have been reported since the early days of his invasion into Ukraine.
In early April, Russian investigative journalism outlet The Project reported that Putin was quite ill and had been receiving regular visits from a noted Russian oncologist.
That account was followed by multiple reports, some from Telegram channels supposedly aligned with Kremlin dissidents, that the ex-KGB man was due to undergo various surgeries or was looking for a potential successor.
Regardless of Putin’s health, the DIA official warned against underestimating the Russian president.
“He’s still dangerous, and chaos does lie ahead if he does die. We need to focus on that. Be ready,” he said.