A prominent critic of Valdimir Putin has claimed that the Russian president was suffering from cancer and underwent surgery earlier this year.
Valery Solovei, who claims to have sources ‘at the epicentre of decision making’, suggested 68-year-old Putin had the operation in February.
Another unnmaed source suggested the operation was on Putin’s abdomen.
It comes two weeks after Solovei first spoke out over the strongman leader’s health, suggesting that he has Parkinson’s.
Vladimir Putin had cancer surgery on his abdomen back in February, a prominent critic has claimed in the latest rumour about the Russian president’s health
Solovei, former head of PR at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, believes that Putin is planning on stepping down in January due to his health problems and is planning to name daughter Katerina Tikhonova as his successor.
The Kremlin has firmly denied that there is anything wrong with Putin’s health.
It is unclear exactly when Solovei believes the alleged cancer operation took place, but sources claimed Putin’s first appearance afterwards was a flower-laying ceremony on February 19.
Rumours about Putin’s health began to swirl after it emerged papers were being drawn up to make him senator-for-life when he stands down from the presidency – in a hint that the end of his 20-year reign could be drawing near.
A coughing fit during a TV appearance Thursday did little to quell the speculation.
Putin was holding a meeting with officials to disucss the ‘acute financial problems’ caused by coronavirus when he suffered the bout of coughing.
The video was later edited so that Putin’s coughing fit seemed less severe.
State news agency TASS asked the Kremlin about Putin’s health and was told he was ‘absolutely normal’.
‘The president apologised and continued the meeting almost without pausing,’ the agency said.
Footage has circulated in Russia of Putin’s legs moving around as he gripped onto the armrest of a chair, suggesting his ill health.
Eyes are also drawn to a twitching pen in the former KGB operative’s fingers and a cup which analysts have suggested were filled with painkillers.
Valery Solovei, a prominent opponent of Putin, claims that daughter Katerina Tikhonova – a dancer-turned-political apointee – is being groomed to replace him
It is not the first time that people have speculated that Putin may be suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Others have previously noted his ‘gunslinger’s gait’ – a clearly reduced right arm swing compared to his left, giving him a lilting swagger.
An asymmetrically reduced arm swing is a classic feature of Parkinson’s and can manifest in ‘clinically intact subjects with a predisposition to later develop’ the disease, according to the British Medical Journal.
‘There is a family, it has a great influence on him. He intends to make public his handover plans in January,’ Solovei said.
He suggested a new prime minister will soon be appointed by Putin who will be ‘groomed’ to takeover.
It comes as Putin is introducing plans to guarantee him immunity after office, which state-run RT media say will be seen ‘as a sign that the groundwork is being laid for an eventual transition of power in Russia’.
Putin has cultivated an athletic image: riding horses, wrestling, playing ice hockey and swimming in frigid lakes (pictured: on the rink in Moscow in December 2019)
Putin and any subsequent ex-president will be permitted within three months of leaving the presidency to become a member of the Federation Council, the country’s upper house or senate, for life.
‘This is Russia copying the outdated British system of life peers in the House of Lords,’ said one Moscow source.
Russian presidents are currently only protected for actions taken while they were in office, whereas the new law will guarantee them immunity for any alleged crimes committed before, during or after presidency.
It would mean Putin would be protected over allegations of corruption which have persisted since the 1990s when he was a deputy to the mayor of St Petersburg.
Politician and dissident Marina Salye accused him of embezzling tens of millions of pounds from the city in a food-for-experts scheme, but an investigation was blocked by the mayor.
The new law would also protect former president Dmitry Medvedev, who aroused suspicions after he gained a vast fortune, including luxury villas, yachts and a vineyard after his presidency ended in 2012.
The immunity law could only be revoked by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Russia’s parliament, if it is approved.
But it would not grant Putin and other presidents from international courts.
Many foreign critics have urged investigators to charge Putin for the Malaysia Airlines disaster in 2014, which was downed in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
The 68-year-old strongman president of Russia is being urged to retire by his former gymnast lover Alina Kabaeva, 37, insiders say (pictured recently, left, and winning at the Olympics in 2004, right)
Putin has denied Russia’s involvement but investigators say the plane was brought down by separatists backed by the Kremlin using a Buk missile which had been supplied by the Russian military.
The Russian leader’s popularity ratings have fallen this year amid his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and poverty, and Putin could be looking to protect himself should the tide turn.
The president’s advisers have always poured scorn on the notion that his health is failing and Putin has cultivated an athletic image: riding horses, wrestling, playing ice hockey and swimming in frigid lakes.
The law comes just four months after Putin changed the constitution to permit him a tsar-like hold on power by seeking a new six year term in 2024, and again in 2030, meaning he would by 83 when he could relinquish power in 2036.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of the senatorial shift: ‘This is the practice that is being applied in many countries of the world, and it is quite justified.
‘This is not innovation from the point of view of international practice.’