More 'Chatter' About Vladimir Putin's Health In Russia, Say Western Officials

But there is no "immediate threat" to the president's position despite 20,000 Russian soldiers having been killed in Ukraine so far.
Sputnik Photo Agency via Reuters

There is “more chatter” about Vladimir Putin’s health in Russia and increased speculation about who will replace him, Western officials have said.

But one official said there was not an “immediate threat” to Putin’s grip on power despite some 20,000 Russian soldiers having been killed so far in Ukraine.

“We are not seeing that from the elites, we are not seeing that from the population,” they said.

“There is more chatter about his health. There is more speculation about succession.”

They added the presidential election due in 2024 was “certainly looking more interesting than it perhaps was six months ago”.

One official said the fact the Russian government had not rebranded its invasion of Ukraine from a “special operation” to a “war” showed there was “high nervousness” about “what Russians really think” of the conflict.

“They don’t want to test that,” they said. “There is a split between the big cities and the regions.”

Western officials said the belief was older Russians who lived outside of the big cities and relied on state media were more supportive of the war, while younger people in urban areas were not.

Officials are expecting the end of summer, and the warm weather, to have a “big impact on the political mood” in Russia.

It comes as Boris Johnson warned his cabinet there was a risk of “growing fatigue” around the world with the conflict.

Downing Street said the PM told ministers it “was vital to remember that the Ukrainians are fighting for freedom” and that the UK “would be steadfast in supporting them”.

Johnson added: “We must not allow anyone to believe that making concessions to Putin would lead to anything but disaster.”

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