Russian President Vladimir Putin is rumoured to be set to undergo cancer surgery and temporarily hand power over to a hard-line former police chief, according to reports.
According to a video from a mysterious Telegram group called "General SVR", who claims to be a former Kremlin member and current insider, Putin has handed control of Russia to Nikolai Patrustev who is the head of Russian federal police's Security Council.
The channel — which is purportedly run by a former Russian Foreign Intelligence Service lieutenant general known by the pseudonym "Viktor Mikhailovich" — reported that Putin has been told by doctors that he must undergo an operation.
Putin's sickly appearance and uncharacteristically fidgety behaviour in public have recently raised questions about his health. Photo / Kremlin
It's believed Putin's surgery and recovery will leave him out of action for "a short time".
"Putin is unlikely to agree to hand over power for a longer period of time," the narrator of the video states, adding that the control of the country will likely be in Patrushev's hands for no more than two to three days.
"I will say that this is the worst option," the narrator adds. "Patrushev is an outright villain. He is no better than Vladimir Putin. Moreover, he is a more cunning, and I would say, more insidious person than Vladimir Putin. If he comes to power, Russians' problems will only multiply."
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev seen during the military parade at Red Square. Photo / Getty Images
"Viktor Mikhailovich" ominously hinted that he and his allies "will make certain efforts so this does not happen, and I hope we will succeed."
When asked about the rumours, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said they couldn't confirm it.
"I have seen nothing that could help us corroborate that," he said.
The rumour has come after reporting from Russian investigative outlet The Project claimed Putin has been seen by a cancer doctor at least 35 times in recent years.
The outlet also claimed an oncologist named Evgeny Selivanov has reportedly made dozens of secret visits to Putin's getaway house in Sochi in the past four years.
The report also suggests the Russian president secretly underwent surgery last autumn.
"In medical circles, it is believed that the president was undergoing a complicated procedure related to some kind of thyroid disease during this period."
Saturday's video claimed that Putin's cancer is progressing, but the narrator darkly quipped that he doesn't want to give viewers "false hope."
Putin, 70, whose sickly appearance and uncharacteristically fidgety behaviour in public have recently raised questions about his health, has been rumoured to suffer from cancer and a host of other serious maladies, including Parkinson's disease.
"General SVR" also said Thursday it's alleged that Patrushev had a lengthy "heart-to-heart" conversation with Putin.
"We know that Putin signalled to Patrushev that he considers him to be practically his only trusted ally and friend in the government," the post claimed. "Additionally, the president promised that if his health takes a turn for the worse, actual control of the country will temporarily pass into Patrushev's hands."
In April the Telegram group said doctors told Putin to undergo surgery. This didn't happen.
The group has claimed since the end of 2020 that Putin has suffered numerous health issues.
The Kremlin has denied he's suffering any medical issues.