Russian President Vladimir Putin's public appearances were "staged" last week as a cover-up for a weeklong absence due to sickness, sources from the opposition claimed. It was alleged that old footage was used in video appearances for several meetings, while Putin was taking a rest. It comes amid reports that Putin is battling cancer and is seriously ill.
There have also been reports that the Russian dictator had undergone surgery and chemotherapy. The claim was made by a Russian General SVR Telegram channel that all throughout last week Putin was absent from his official duties and what was shown on television was footage from the past.
According to a source, Putin has been missing since last Tuesday. However, Russian media used pre-recorded footage to make it look like he was meeting in the Kremlin.
According to the General SVR Telegram channel, trusted assistant Nikolai Patrushev, a former FSB chief, is now in virtual control of the Kremlin and receives top-level briefings that would typically go directly to Putin. Patrushev is said to have taken over the reins of power and has received top-level briefings that would normally go direct to Putin.
Putin has been ordered by physicians to have surgery for a cancer issue, according to the same newspaper, which forecast his brief disappearance despite the war in Ukraine.
The channel, in its latest post, claimed that according to Kremlin insiders, Putin's aides believe he is terminally ill which has altered the dynamic in Russia.
His absence since Tuesday could not be verified, but the channel claimed that his staff "show pre-recorded videos of his meetings."
Besides, face-to-face meetings with Rostech CEO Sergei Chemezova and Rosatom CEO Alexey Likhachev were supposed to have taken place on Wednesday and Thursday, although they were said to have occurred earlier and were saved to give the an impression that Putin was active and doing fine.
It was unclear if a virtual security council appearance by Putin on Friday was also seen as "staged".
Only Patrushev, the security council secretary, is now keeping formal conversations with Putin, according to the Telegram channel. "Putin is sick and has diseases that are incurable, such as oncology, which is at a stage that, today, cannot be cured, Parkinson's disease and a schizoaffective disorder," the channel said.
The Russian leader "is certainly receiving the most advanced, most innovative treatment, and he has the ability to prolong his life, there is no doubt about it".
However, it remained uncertain when his condition would worsen. "There is a general feeling, including among the attending physicians, that all this will not last very long," said the channel's Telegram post.
"But, again, we have already said that many people think that now Putin will die and something will change radically."
After Putin is forced to go, some in the government are prepared to "sabotage" attempts to continue Putin's authoritarian style of administration.
This process would be triggered if Ukraine won the conflict.
The insider quoted by the General SVR is the same person who last week stated that Putin had to undergo cancer surgery, which forced him to miss his gymnast sweetheart Alina Kabaeva's birthday.
The fresh claims came after US director Oliver Stone, who worked with Putin on documentaries for many hours, claimed Putin had cancer but "licked it" and recovered. The Russian president's unusual appearance has spurred speculation that footage of him was manipulated while he is undergoing cancer treatment.
Putin's head appeared "bloated" at a virtual meeting of Russia's security council, prompting speculation that it was altered.
it was claimed in March that Putin had used a green screen to simulate a TV meeting while in isolation after his hand was seen "going through a microphone" in a video shared on Reddit.
The Russian dictator is said to be suffering from cancer and Parkinson's disease, and a prominent oligarch claims he is "extremely ill with blood cancer." Putin was flanked by a big medical staff led by a specialized thyroid cancer surgeon, according to an investigation by Russian independent media.
Another theory is that he has been diagnosed with stomach cancer.