Western intelligence officials believe Vladimir Putin could become medically incapacitated "within three-six months", a former spy has claimed.
Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele said the CIA and other agencies believe the Russian President could be ousted in the coming months following his “disastrous” invasion of Ukraine.
He claimed that while one of the factors would be his “failing” health, it would also depend on what happened in Ukraine and if Russia suffered more substantial casualties.
Steele told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “I don’t see him (Putin) being in power for more than three-six months from now.
“There are signs his health is failing for a start which will be a factor in this.
“And if what we’re being told by the CIA and others and our own sources is true then it looks as though he could become incapacitated over that sort of period of time.”
Steele added: “This is a strongman regime where people have to have fear of the leader and if the leader is incapacitated medically then there will be a move against him, im sure.”
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The former MI6 operative said his replacement was unlikely to be any more liberal than Putin, but would be someone who had a vested interest in getting out of the war.
He said: “I don’t think it would mean good relations with the West but at least we would be able to have a negotiation where they could claim they hadn’t lost face because of the blame they would be putting on the previous leader.”
In April, questions about Putin's health increased when a video from February showed him “shaking uncontrollably” during a meeting with Aleksandr Lukashenko, the president of Belarus.
That followed a report by a Russian investigative journalism group that Putin had been visited by a cancer surgeon dozens of times over a four-year period.
Last month a Ukrainian intelligence official claimed the Russian leader had cancer but won't "die tomorrow".
Moscow has not formally responded to rumours about Putin's health. However, in November 2020, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected widely reported claims that the Russian president had Parkinson's disease and was poised to quit.
“It’s absolute nonsense,” Peskov said. “Everything is fine with the president.”
More than three months after launching a war against its heavily outnumbered and outgunned neighbour, Russia has withdrawn from much of northern Ukraine to refocus on the east.
Thousands of people have been killed in Ukraine and millions more displaced since the beginning of the war, which Moscow calls a "special military operation" to "denazify" its neighbour.
Ukraine and its Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war to seize territory.
Steele was behind the so-called Steele dossier, published by BuzzFeed in January 2017, about alleged links between former US president Donald Trump and Russia in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election campaign.