Rumors ranging from Parkinson’s disease to terminal cancer have widely circulated on social media and little has been confirmed.
While the Kremlin has refuted all health-related speculation regarding the president, some analysts are not convinced.
Even if Putin were ill, Moscow’s well-oiled propaganda machine would never allow this fact to be disclosed to the public.
What Are the Rumors?
In early April, classified documents from a Pentagon intelligence report were leaked on social media platforms.
Along with information about troop movements and casualty numbers in Ukraine, the documents also cover an alleged plan by Russian officials to sabotage the Kremlin leader. A member of Ukraine’s parliament Yelizaveta Bohutska claimed that Russian officials were planning a coordinated military setback on March 5, a day when Putin was scheduled to start a round of chemotherapy.
According to the New York Times, “Ms. Bohutska disclosed the plot on Feb. 17 to Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to Mr. Zelensky, according to the document. Ms. Bohutska, it added, had received the information from an unidentified Russian source with access to Kremlin officials.”
This claim, however, is unsubstantiated.
It is also important to note that it is in Kyiv’s best interest to fuel these “sick” rumors. If Russian troops and citizens believe their leader is terminally ill, they would likely question his ability to make sound decisions, undermining his will.
More Putin Rumors
Despite the validity of the leaked Pentagon documents regarding Putin’s health, other speculations regarding the president’s potential chemotherapy treatments have previously swirled.
Last June, three U.S. intelligence leaders read reports that the Kremlin leader had undergone cancer treatments in April 2021. According to Newsweek, a retired Air Force senior leader, an official from the Director of National Intelligence and an official from the Defense Intelligence Agency agree that the reports may not have possessed accurate health assessments of Putin since verification would be hard to come by.
In addition to cancer rumors, other media outlets have circulated the story that Putin may be suffering from the progressive neurological condition Parkinson’s disease. When the Russian president visited Crimea earlier this year, he appeared to be periodically limping, which is a consistent symptom of Parkinson’s.
Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko shared footage of Putin’s visit on social media, noting that “A visibly limping Putin arrived in occupied Crimea Russian sources report,” Gerashchenko wrote, adding that “Putin’s visit to Sevastopol to «celebrate» the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea Which, by the way, will be one of the items on Putin’s list of accusations at The Hague Court.”
While navigating the various rumors surrounding Putin’s health can be quite the headache, it is crucial to remember that speculation is not necessarily reality. The Russian president is 70-years old and some of his perceived “symptoms” could just be signs of old age.
Even if Putin were to die, the probability that his successor would continue the invasion of Kyiv is very likely.
MORE: Does Putin Have Cancer?
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.