Russian President Vladimir Putin, long rumored to be ill, is set to undergo cancer surgery, the New York Post is reporting.
The paper is basing its scoop on a video off the mysterious Telegram channel “General SVR” that claims the Russian leader is so sick he must designate a temporary fill-in.
That person is Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Russian federal police’s Security Council, the Post adds.
Howard Stoffer, a University of New Haven professor and nuclear arms control veteran, told the Herald Monday he is one of a few Americans who has met Patrushev.
“It was one of the most amazing meetings I ever had,” Stoffer said of a counter-terrorism mission to Russia. “He’s very serious. I don’t think he’ll do anything rash.”
Stoffer said if the Post report is true — and he called the Russian-based Telegram encrypted messaging app for real — then Patrushev will probably not end the war in Ukraine nor launch any nuclear weapons.
“He’s absolutely someone Putin trusts. They came up through the ranks together,” he said of the former KGB spies. “This might be something as simple as a colonoscopy. But the Russians remain logical.”
He said while at the UN in counter-terrorism right after 9/11, he came face-to-face with Patrushev, who he said speaks good English and wanted to share intel on terrorists. They they met for dinner when they both kept up the conversation.
As for Putin, the anticipated surgery and recovery are expected to incapacitate him for “a short time,” according to the unconfirmed report the Post adds.
The news comes as the CIA says Russians disaffected by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine may be trying to get in touch with U.S. intelligence — and it wants them to go to the darknet, according to the Associated Press.
The agency on Monday began a new push to promote its presence on a part of the internet accessible only through specialized tools that provide more anonymity. The CIA has a darknet site that has the same features as its regular homepage but accessible only through the Tor internet browser, which has encryption features not available on most regular browsers.
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