‘Cancer-ridden’ Putin facing military COUP as inner circle prepares to axe leader

Putin is ‘worried’ about coup says commentator

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After two months of fighting, Russian forces are struggling to make significant advances. After failing to envelop the capital Kyiv, troops are focusing, with difficulty, to take the Donbas. At the same time, Ukraine continues to show fierce resistance; the world hopes for progress on the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant, and the West remains united in sanctioning Moscow over its attacks. But according to a former US general, Putin will not give up, as losing the war would lead to his “demise”.

General Jack Keane, former Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army, said Putin, 69, will “do anything” for a victory in Ukraine as that’s his way to hang onto power. If he loses, he argued, it would be his end.

He said: “He’s all about staying in power. That’s his motivation. He will do anything to stay in power.

“The alternative, he knows full well, by a successor who doesn’t agree with him, could mean the end of him – his demise.

“He’s fighting to stay in power and he’s determined, I think, to still accomplish his goals – even though his focus is in the south [of Ukraine].”

The Kremlin announced on March 25 the first phase of its “military operation” in Ukraine was mostly complete and it would now focus on completely “liberating” the region home to rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk.

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And so, all eyes turned to the east and Donbas, where Russia’s assaults became what many described as a turning point in the conflict.

Mariupol, the port city which has seen constant bombardment since February 24, has been at the heart of this “second phase of the war”.

Although it was a key target from the first day of the full-scale invasion, the critical situation at the Azovstal steel plant, the city’s last stronghold, called for ramped-up efforts to free trapped residents.

Over the weekend, the prospects of evacuation for the approximately 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers and their families hiding in the four-square-mile industrial plant appeared bleak.

But on Tuesday, about 100 people were finally able to leave Mariupol, with a convoy of 106 civilians evacuated from the plant making it safely to Zaporizhzhia, as confirmed by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the International Red Cross.

The UN’s Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, said she was “relieved to confirm that the safe passage operation from Mariupol has been successful”.

In a tweet, she said: “The people I travelled with told me heartbreaking stories of the hell they went through. I’m thinking about the people who remain trapped. We will do all we can to assist them.”

Yet, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told reporters hundreds of others trying to leave Mariupol and other Russian-occupied areas were being prevented from doing so by Moscow’s forces.

Ms Vereshchuk said that the ceasefire around Azovstal had not been established for long enough to get all civilians out – “so hundreds more women, children and the elderly are under the rubble”.

She also blamed the Kremlin for changing agreements about the evacuations, which led to people from occupied towns like Tokmak and Vasylivka, which are south of Zaporizhzhia, being unable to leave.

She added that 40 seriously injured soldiers were trapped at the plant in urgent need of medical care.

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Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said: “The ICRC hasn’t forgotten the people who are still there, nor those in other areas affected by the hostilities or those in dire need of humanitarian relief, wherever they are.”

As Gen Keane, Putin’s focus on the Donbas doesn’t mean the rest of the country is safe from Moscow’s offensive.

His ambitions, he told Fox News, are high despite the heavy losses among his military.

He said: “He still wants to take the country over, topple the regime – and I take Putin seriously.

“I think many of us discounted him for a number of years, but he is about returning to the Russian Empire.

“I think as long as he’s in power, he will be in pursuit of it.

“He has no future beyond him being the president of Russia. That’s a fact.”

Remarks by Gen Keane on the leader’s future come amid widespread claims the dictator suffers from serious health issues.

The latest information on the state of the president came from an anonymous former high-ranking Kremlin military figure, whom Russian media outlet General SVR quoted as saying Putin has cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

They said: “Putin has discussed that he will be undergoing medical procedures.

“We know very well that he has cancer, and Parkinson’s disease, as we have said many times.

“It was possible to contain it for some time, but now the course of the disease is progressing.”

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