The rumors that Putin is on death’s doorstep have sparked rampant speculation, contributed to propaganda messaging, and inspired media coverage; but the rumors remain unfounded, relying on photo and video analysis more than anything else.
Really, the rumors sound like wishful thinking.
The status of Putin’s health even appeared in documents released during last month’s “Jack the Dripper” leak.
“A document among the trove of leaked classified materials offers the latest example of fascination with Mr. Putin’s health,” The New York Times reported. “It describes a conversation between two Ukrainian officials about what one claimed was a conspiracy among Mr. Putin’s internal opponents to challenge his rule at a moment when he was said to be undergoing chemotherapy.”
However, the word within the US intelligence community is that Putin’s health is stable, that he’s not sick. The CIA director concurred. But the rumors persist.
Putin Rumors are to be expected
“Analysts called the public discussion of Mr. Putin’s well-being unsurprising,” The Times reported. “It is a predictable byproduct of the aura of mystery around powerful autocrats who keep their distance from observers and their personal lives well concealed,” said John Sipher, a former CIA official.
Sipher is on to something; Putin is one of many autocrats to attract bad health rumors. Take Kim Jong-un, the mysterious leader of North Korea (aka The Hermit Kingdom) who was rumored to have been ill, or even deceased. Similar rumors cropped up regarding China’s Xi Jinping when he shut down Chinese travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both Kim Jong-un and Xi appear to be relatively healthy; the rumors were never confirmed.
“I’ve never put much stock in health talk,” Sipher said. “We’ve heard the same stuff for years. I just think that it’s always a discussion point in closed societies where they hide and lie about everything.”
The rumors about Putin appear to be more of the same; observers of Putin and Russia don’t seem to be taking the rumors seriously. “I’m deeply skeptical that Putin has some health problems likely to lead to his imminent death or incapacitation,” Professor Mark Galeotti told Newsweek. “There is a great deal of rumor, propaganda, and wishful thinking in play.”
Rumors are expansive
Rumors about Putin’s health have been especially rampant. Many of the rumors starting appearing right around the time Putin gave his forces the green light to invade Ukraine. Probably not a coincidence. For example, just one month into the conflict, a British tabloid reported that Putin was in “agony” and dying from cancer. The tabloid report relied upon an unnamed Pentagon source.
The idea that Putin had (or has) cancer seemed to have gained considerable traction. Last summer, three US intelligence officials declared that Putin had received treatment for cancer. Similarly, New Lines magazine reported that Putin was “very ill with blood cancer.”
The problem, however, is that there is no proof to back up the rumors.
The claims that Putin is sick are all reliant upon flimsy evidence.
Namely, the analysis of Putin during press conferences and speeches. The sources are just not credible.
Indeed, the idea that Putin is legitimately ill seems like wishful thinking from a western world who is tired of the autocrat’s policies.
MORE: Does Putin Have Cancer?
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.