What if Putin does have Cancer? Does that end the war in Ukraine?
The Putin Cancer Talk
Since Russia first invaded Ukraine back in February 2022, rumors surrounding Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin’s health have circulated.
Many of the illness speculations regarding the Russian president remain unsubstantiated, however, various news outlets and notable figures have suggested there may be some merit to Putin’s potentially failing health.
If Putin were seriously sick with an illness, there is no chance the Kremlin’s well-oiled propaganda and misinformation machine would relay the truth to the public. Back in the summer, the Wagner Group Russian mercenary organization notably carried out a near-insurrection.
The Wagner Group’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin planned to seize Russia’s military leadership as part of a spontaneous rebellion but then retreated once Wagner soldiers ended up on the outskirts of Moscow. Yevgeny and Russia’s defense ministry have had several public brawls in recent months, highlighting a major weakness in the country’s leadership structure.
In light of Kyiv’s ongoing counter-offensive to recapture territories, the almost-rebellion obviously weakened the world’s perception of Putin’s longevity in power. Any indication or evidence that the rumors surrounding the Russian president’s health are valid would further deteriorate Putin’s position.
What are the rumors?
Last June, three American intelligence officials allegedly told Newsweek that according to classified reports Putin had undergone treatment for advanced cancer in the Spring of 2022. Kremlin officials and other state-media outlets refuted this claim, referring to Putin’s health as “excellent.”
Obviously, even if these rumors were true, Kremlin officials would never confirm them. It is also important to note that any rumors or health speculations coming from Ukraine should also be taken with a massive jug of salt since it is in Kyiv’s best interest for Putin to appear weak.
In an ABC interview earlier this year, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov boasted that the rumors regarding Putin’s health were in fact accurate. As detailed by the New York Times, “He has been sick for a long time. I am sure he has cancer,” Mr. Budanov said. “I think he will die very quickly. I hope very soon.” A few weeks later, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky questioned whether Mr. Putin was still alive.
In March, video footage of Putin’s visit to Crimea’s largest city, Sevastopol, inflamed illness speculations. The 70-year-old president appeared to be limping in the footage, fueling one rumor that Putin may suffer from Parkinson’s Disease.
In the video, Putin walks alongside six bodyguards with the governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev. Additional video coverage of the visit was shared by Ukraine’s Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko, who voiced on Twitter that “A visibly limping Putin arrived in occupied Crimea Russian sources report, 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.”
In April, classified documents from a Pentagon intelligence report also fueled Putin’s health rumors. When a 21-year-old U.S. airman published documents pertaining to the Ukraine war on several websites, information surrounding Putin’s alleged chemotherapy treatments were included. These claims have never been substantiated, however.
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.