The past year has seen all eyes on Ukraine, Russia, and their leaders Voloymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin.
While Zelensky has been hailed as a symbol of resistance, there has been speculation over Putin’s current health status, with some questions over his public appearances. As a result, rumours have swirled online about the Russian leader’s wellbeing and potential illnesses.
From a tapping foot to a dazed-looking Putin swaying during a Russian national television broadcast, there have been rumours of cancers, Covid or Parkinson’s striking down the president as his country continues its war in Ukraine. As a result, questions have remained over his position in the Kremlin and what could come next for Russia.
But is he actually ill - and what would Putin possibly leaving the Kremlin mean for the war? Here’s everything you need to know about the situation.
Is Putin ill?
Claims have been made by Ukraine that the Russian leader’s health is failing. Kyrylo Budanov, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, told ABC News in the US that “human sources” had informed Ukrainian officials that Putin was suffering from what they believe to be “cancer”.
The General SVR Telegram channel, which claims to have insider knowledge of the Kremlin, has consistently questioned Putin’s health over the past few months. In a post in December, the channel claimed that Putin would “soon...not be able to personally hold meetings and participate in large events”.
However, the Kremlin has denied that Putin is ill in any way. At a press conference, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Everything is fine with his health”.
Does Putin still have a grip on power in the Kremlin?
While people online have speculated over Putin’s health, there are currently no signs of him stepping down as leader of Russia. James Rogers, co-founder of the Council on Geostrategy, explained: “I would take many of these claims as nothing more than speculation.
“Putin still has significant hold over Russia. He has, over the last 20 odd years, installed an increasingly authoritarian and kleptocratic regime.”
However, Russia’s stalling success in Ukraine may have turned some backers against Putin. Rogers said: “It seems that there are certain elements of the regime that were completely unaware of the invasion, the renewed invasion that took place back in February last year - that would tell us also that there are some disagreements within the Kremlin.
“Putin is very much still in charge. That said, anything can change under the conditions of war.
“There are immense pressures imposed on countries. And as we’ve seen in the past, when war breaks out and they’re subjected to those pressures - political, economic, financial, military and industrial - all countries and governments can sometimes crack and split open very, very quickly and things can change fundamentally.”
What could come after Putin?
Despite concerns over his health, 70-year-old Putin looks to be going nowhere. However, as much as he may want to stick around, there will inevitably come a day where he is no longer leader of the Russian Federation.
So what will come next? And will Russia continue in its pursuit of Ukrainian soil?
“I suspect whatever replaces him in the Kremlin will not be so dissimilar,” said Rogers. “The ideas that we had in the 1990s of Russia becoming a nice, squeaky clean democracy, I think those are largely fantasies.”
Despite “disagreements” in the Kremlin, Russia could more than likely continue in its war on Ukraine. Rogers said: “Whatever replaces the Putin regime in Moscow will be very similar and it will have the same logic of expansion that Putin seems to have.”