Leaked Pentagon documents: Putin’s ailing health and a potential coup against Putin? – Last month, federal agents in an armored car and military-grade gear swarmed the home of Jack Douglas Teixeira- the 21-year old accused of leaking classified Pentagon documents. As a member of the U.S. Air National Guard in Massachusetts, Teixeria had access to sensitive materials related to national security efforts. U.S. officials had been seeking out the culprit of the leak, which exposed potentially hundreds of pages of intelligence surrounding Russian efforts in Ukraine and spying on U.S. allies.
In addition to pertinent information about the ongoing invasion, a rumor about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s health was also leaked. According to the New York Post, a Ukrainian official claimed that the Kremlin chief was undergoing chemotherapy. Additionally, rumors that other Kremlin officials would use Putin’s health-related absence to “throw” the air were also disclosed in the documents. Even prior to the outbreak of the invasion in February 2022, speculations surrounding the Russian president’s health persisted.
While many of these rumors have been dismissed by industry experts, it is interesting that recent conjecture links Putin’s potentially ailing health to a coup d’état
An Overview of Putin’s Health Rumors
The UK-based Independent online newspaper claimed that the documents revealed Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov and National Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev had devised a plan to “sabotage” Putin.
“Russia planned to divert resources from Taganrog, Russia to Mariupol, Ukraine and focus its attention on the southern front,” the document reportedly says.
“According to (a redacted) source, the plan for “the offensive” was suspected to be a strategy devised by (Gerasimov and Patrushev) to sabotage Putin.”
While some analysts are signaling that the rumors discussed in the leaked Pentagon papers could have merit, others dismiss the conjecture. Similarly to other authoritarian leaders who lead countries where misinformation is prominent, Putin has often been the subject of frequent speculation. Since the onset of Russia’s invasion, however, rumors regarding the Russian president have skyrocketed.
What Ukraine Is Saying About Putin
Unsurprisingly, Ukrainian officials have circulated rumors about Putin’s health in statements, on social media, and in televised appearances.
Kyiv is hoping to undermine Putin’s position and cause panic amongst Russian citizens that their leader may not be up to the task.
Earlier this year, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told ABC News in an interview that Putin had been ill for a long time, adding that he was “sure he has cancer.”
Other Ukrainian officers have mirrored Budanov’s rhetoric that the Russian president would die soon. Weeks after this interview, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky speculated that he was not “entirely sure” if Putin was still alive and making decisions for the country.
Over the last fourteen-plus months of warfare, illness-related Putin rumors ranging from terminal cancer to Parkinson’s Disease have circulated on social media. Most recently, video footage of the Russian president visiting Crimea sparked conversation due to Putin’s apparent limp. Additionally, an alleged scar on Putin’s neck garnered attention at an Orthodox Easter service. Although these rumors seem excessive, many U.S. officials are not convinced the Kremlin leader is terminally ill at all.
What About a Potential coup?
In addition to illness speculations, the leaked Pentagon documents reportedly refer to a potential coup d’état.
According to the New York Times, the papers assert that a member of Ukraine’s parliament is aware of a Russian plan to undermine their own military in an effort to “sabotage” Putin. The document states that Yelizaveta Bohutska claimed that the plan was meant to carry out in early March, “when Putin was allegedly scheduled to start a round of chemotherapy and would thus be unable to influence the war effort” Bohutska is the “unidentified Russian source” with access to Kremlin officials.
Coup rumors circulated prior to the release of the Pentagon documents. The leader of Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group was widely suspected to be the Russian president’s replacement if, in fact, “sabotage” did occur. Over the last few months, Yevgeny Prigozhin made headlines for claiming that his mercenary soldiers were singularly responsible for seizing the town of Soledar in the Donetsk region- not Russian soldiers. Prigozhin wrote a scathing message on telegram: “They are constantly trying to steal victory from the Wagner PMC [private military company] and talk about the presence of the unknown, only to belittle their merits.”
A few months prior, another source once close to Putin claimed that the Kremlin leader would pick a successor before risking his downfall vis-à-vis a coup. The source told the Daily Mail that “Putin’s whole apparatus is looking wearily at Prigozhin and is scared he will come after them.” He added that “Putin really might not be reelected if he will stand again. He would try to fake the outcome, but this is too much of a risk for the system. He may appoint a trusted person as president, if they could win the elections. Still, they will also have to negotiate with Ukraine and the West.”
The public would never be aware even if Putin were terminally ill or concerned with a potential coup. The Kremlin runs a very controlled propaganda machine and would not threaten to embolden Ukraine or alarm its own civilians amidst its invasion.
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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.
May 2, 2023 at 8:40 am
Media sources have been bantering back and forth concerning Putin’s health, and or various assassination attempts, “sabotage” to rid the planet of Putin, and subsequent coup d’état plots to change the leadership in the Russian Federation.
One writer points out an internal coup by the Russian FSB. Another planned by outside agents from Ukraine, trained by the CIA of course. What about a lone sniper from the book depository in the Red Square? My favorite would be a dose of his own medicine, novichok served by an undercover Ukrainian transgender server in his bowl of borscht.
Great ghost of Stalin! ‘Arguably the most curious effort merely resulted in a catastrophic change of menu at the only Chinese restaurant in Moscow. The year was 1952 at the Hotel Peking on Mayakovsky Square. Nearing its completion to celebrate ‘Sino-Soviet friendship’. Although the hotel didn’t open until 1955, two years after the death of Joseph Stalin.
Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong sent a favorite chef to Moscow to open a restaurant just off the hotel’s lobby. The story—endlessly told by the Peking’s staff and management had all the trappings of an espionage horror movie. The chef was not really a cook. He was an assassin sent to kill Stalin. But the KGB got to him first, slamming a kitchen cleaver into his head, and—according to hotel legend—leaving his ghost, ax-in-head, to haunt the hallways in search of Stalin.’
Keep the stories coming.
May 2, 2023 at 2:23 pm
Might get worse.
Its an unfortunately stupid war and position Putin leaves.
Pride however is hard to figure out whats next.
Bosda The Raccoon Philosopher
May 3, 2023 at 2:00 pm
It won’t solve much.
Putin’s Goons and lackeys will likely keep the war going, even if Vlad is dead.
However, it would be a LOVELY gesture.