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Vladimir Putin is ‘quite seriously ill’, says former spy who wrote Trump Russia dossier

‘It’s not clear exactly what this illness is — whether it’s incurable or terminal, or whatever’

Maroosha Muzaffar
Monday 16 May 2022 12:29 BST
Related video: Ukraine can win war against Russia, Nato’s Jens Stoltenberg says
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Vladimir Putin is “quite seriously ill” claims the former British spy Christopher Steele, who wrote a dossier on Donald Trump and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US elections.

“Certainly, from what we’re hearing from sources in Russia and elsewhere, is that Putin is, in fact, quite seriously ill,” the former British spy said in an interview with Sky News on Sunday.

Mr Steele, however, said it could not be determined what the exact illness is.

“It’s not clear exactly what this illness is — whether it’s incurable or terminal, or whatever. But certainly, I think it’s part of the equation,” he added.

The remarks come after US magazine New Lines claimed to have obtained an audio recording of a Russian oligarch with close ties to Mr Putin telling a western venture capitalist that the Russian leader is “very ill with blood cancer”.

The unnamed oligarch, whose identity and voice the magazine claims it could easily authenticate, was recorded discussing Mr Putin’s health in mid-March.

The Kremlin has maintained that the Russian president is fit and well.

In the recording, the oligarch can be heard saying Mr Putin had surgery on his back linked to his blood cancer, shortly before ordering the invasion of Ukraine that he has dubbed a “special military operation”.

The oligarch added that the president has gone “crazy.”

Just days earlier, Ukrainian major general Kyrylo Budanov made the claim that the Russian leader is seriously ill with cancer and that a coup to remove him is underway in Russia.

In an interview, Mr Budanov said besides cancer, the Russian leader was also battling other illnesses.

New Lines magazine reported that a “top-secret memo” was sent out by the headquarters of the FSB — Russia’s domestic security agency — to all its regional directors instructing regional chiefs not to trust rumours about the president’s terminal condition.

Mr Steele, pointing to the speculation, said: “When you see that happening, you think it’s probably true. So, I think there is an element of his illness involved in this [the decision to invade Ukraine] and his legacy.”

The former British spy said even if Mr Putin was ill, it may still be difficult for anyone else to have any impact on his approach.

“In general there are very few people who are prepared to stand up to or to argue with President Putin… I do think though that there are dissident voices, discordant voices, people telling him this is a disastrous war, that, particularly on the economy, will not play out well for Russia, and we can only hope that that will lead to some kind of change of policy, or even change in regime in due course, but it’s certainly not a given.”

Mr Putin’s body language was scrutinised by body language experts during Russia’s Victory Day celebrations last week after speculation over his health emerged.

They concluded that the puffiness of his face and his unsteady walk could suggest some form of medication was used by him for an illness.

In April, Mr Putin was seen awkwardly clutching a table for the entirety of a 12-minute video clip of a meeting he had with his defence minister.

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