Ukraine has claimed that Vladimir Putin will die “very quickly” because he has been sick for a “long time”. Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, told ABC News that they had sources close to the Kremlin leader who had confirmed that Putin, 70, was suffering from cancer. Though the Russian autocrat’s life was apparently in danger, Mr Budanov said the “war must end before his death”. He later added that strikes into Russian territory, such as the Engels airbase attack on December 5, would undoubtedly continue this year, though he declined to take responsibility for them.
In a rare interview, a laconic Kyrylo Budanov was pressed on a number of issues relating to Putin’s health and the possibility of missile strikes in Russia and Crimea.
Asked if Putin was “terminally ill”, Mr Budanov said: “Of course. He has been ill for a long, very long period. I think he will die very fast. I hope. I am sure he has cancer.”
He later said that he “just knew” that Putin was suffering from an illness because he had received the information “from people, from sources”.
When asked whether the intelligence agency had obtained this information from sources close to Putin, Mr Budanov answered: “Yes”.
But the Ukrainian intelligence chief pointed out that the “war must end before Putin’s death”, adding that Ukraine would emerge successful in 2023.
He said the death of Putin subsequently would “benefit the whole world” and urged the West “not to be afraid of its transformation”.
Fears of who might replace Vladimir Putin should he die given some of the hardline voices in the Kremlin and further afield have caused concern about the actual benefit of his death.
In October last year, following a series of domestic Russian announcements by Putin that appeared unfavourable with the population, such as the call to mass mobilise on September 21, former MI6 chief Sir Alex Younger said about the prospect of the autocrat being overthrown and replaced: “We have to be careful what we wish for.”
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He suggested that Putin could be replaced by what he described as the “the chauvinistic, nationalistic, arguably fascistic right-wing” factions of the Kremlin.
Hardline figures such as Yevgeny Priogozhin, the Russian oligarch and chief of the mercenary Wagner Group fighting in Ukraine, have been critical of the Kremlin’s war efforts.
Though Prigozhin is loyal to Putin, his willingness to openly castigate leading Kremlin officials suggests tensions within the Russian elite.
And his influence appears to be growing despite presiding over a group that has repeatedly violated human rights, committed war crimes and recruited murderers and rapists from prisons to fight in Ukraine.
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