Breathless reports speculating on Vladimir Putin's "poor health" seem to have become a a bi-monthly exercise since the Russian invasion of Ukraine kicked off. Among the more recent and widely reported supposed health scares was an alleged Cancer diagnosis and treatment in April, based on anonymous sources who say they are in the know, but also based in part on the Russian leader's "dramatically changed appearance" - according to some Western reports.
But time and again what ends up being pure sensationalized "rumor" and educated guesses or speculation at best doesn't pan out. There's nothing ever presented in the way of evidence, or any official confirmation from the Kremlin or anyone actually close to Putin.
In the opening month of the war, there were even rumors that Putin was "dying" - and that this figured into his rationale of risking so much politically in ordering the Ukraine invasion. The idea was that a Putin getting close to the end was a more dangerous and unpredictable leader.
But some significant level of confirmation did come this week from someone who might be in the know based on the high-level intelligence he's privy to. CIA Director William Burns discussed the matter at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday, saying there's as yet no intelligence indicating Putin is in bad health.
Burns told the audience at the annual event that it turns out the Russian president is "entirely too healthy." Per the BBC, Burns explained, "There are lots of rumors about President Putin's health, and as far as we can tell, he's entirely too healthy," Burns said.
But the CIA director, who was previously US ambassador to Moscow, added the important caveat that his comment was "not a formal intelligence judgment."
And yet it's also consistent with the official UK assessment on the matter. UK Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said at the start of this week that all the talk of Putin's failing health remains merely "wishful thinking." He noted too that he's not at risk of "assassination" either.
So rumors by UK MOD he was dying in February were lies https://t.co/2CHXioUfjd— Freepress (@ultimateOne) July 21, 2022
The Kremlin has taken the opportunity to clarify amid the Western commentary on Putin's health, with Russian Presidency spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying in a press briefing Thursday that "In recent months, Ukrainian, American, and British so-called information 'specialists' have thrown around various fakes about the health of the president. But it is nothing but fakes."