Putin struggling with illness as rivals circle

Vladimir Putin drives car across the Crimean bridge

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Vladimir Putin’s health is once again in the spotlight after bizarre rumours suggesting he had to sit on a special cushion during crunch meetings with military advisers after an operation. Meanwhile, with the war on Ukraine approaching the ten-month mark, reports have suggested Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also ill, suffering from depression and drinking heavily.

A story carried on the General SVR Telegram channel claimed Putin had been forced to stay in the same position for long periods during lengthy meetings, leaning on a table, while sitting on the pillow after undergoing “proctological surgery” last Saturday.

Bizarrely, General SVR claims the 70-year-old needs “special underwear that retains liquids and odours”.

The channel claims the operation was performed after Putin fell down the stairs at his official residence, although the Kremlin denies this.

A video shows him at the meeting of the security council, but reports suggested it had been “canned” and recorded earlier than the Kremlin admitted, given that senate speaker Valentina Matviyenko, 73, is shown wearing the same clothes in two separate sessions one day apart.

Rumours about Putin’s health have dogged him for months, with Proekt Media, a team of investigative journalists, earlier this year claiming he was accompanied by several doctors, including a thyroid cancer surgeon, on multiple trips between 2016 to 2019.

As for Lavrov, a source within the Russian foreign ministry told gulagu.net the 72-year-old has noticeably reduced his public activity and is seen at work less frequently.

The insider claimed: “One of the versions is health problems. We all think he drinks because he’s depressed.”

Lavrov is believed to have had a heart scare at the recent G20 summit in Bali.

Simultaneously, there are suggestions that potential successors are beginning to plot his downfall, including Yevgeny Prigozhin, 61, the businessman who bankrolls the Wagner Group, sometimes referred to as Putin’s private army.

Puck News reports some US government officials as “eyeing Prigozhin warily, wondering if, ten months into the war, the source of a potential coup has emerged.”

Christo Grozev, Bellingcat’s chief Russia investigator, said: “This is uncharted territory for Putin.

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Prigozhin has 20,000 bloodthirsty, armed and aggressive men.

“They’re telling me, ‘We’re wondering if we should just lay down our arms because we’ve been turned into cannon fodder and go to Moscow?’ That’s in their thought process already.”

Looking ahead to a possible coup next year, he added: “This pressure cooker has to explode in one direction or another. Either it will be a bloody revolution or something else.”

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