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Putin 'constantly surrounded by doctors' as illness throws Kremlin into chaos
18 May 2022, 18:06 | Updated: 18 May 2022, 18:59
There is growing chaos in the Russian government as Putin's mysterious illness has left him surrounded by doctors and in constant need of medical care, a former British spy has told LBC.
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Christopher Steele, a former British government intelligence professional who wrote the dossier on alleged collusion between Russia and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, said the "exact details" of the president's illness were not known.
However he said he was "constantly" being followed by doctors and added he did not appear to be able to get through meetings of the security council without having to break for medical treatment.
"He's constantly accompanied around the place by a team of doctors," he told LBC's Eddie Mair.
"Meetings of the security council that are shown to supposedly last for a whole hour are actually broken up into several sections... he goes out and receives some kind of medical treatment between those sections.
"And so clearly he is seriously ill, I mean how terminal or incurable it is is not clear... we can't be entirely sure.
"But it's certainly having a very serious impact on the governance of Russia at the moment."
He added: "There's increasing disarray in the Kremlin and chaos in fact, that there's no clear political leadership coming from Putin who is increasingly ill, and that in the military's terms the structures of command and so on are not functioning as they should."
Eddie then asked: "Do you think the wheels are coming off?"
He replied: "I do, yes."
Mr Steele then talked about the fact the chief of staff Valery Gerasimov "has basically disappeared", with rumours circulating that he had been injured, as well as the fact the so-called "Butcher of Syria" Aleksandr Dvornikov did not appear to be in charge of all of Russia's military front.
"It looks increasingly febrile and increasingly unstable inside the Kremlin," he said.
He then said Putin had 'painted himself into a corner' and could not withdraw from the war because of a desire to "solidify his legacy".
He added the president is also likely to be trying to avoid showing weakness in the Kremlin, describing it as "a bit like a shark pool".
"The Russian Kremlin is a bit like a shark pool, they all swim round and if they smell blood in the water or taste blood in the water they start fighting," Mr Steele said.
He then talked about what might happen if Putin needed to be replaced, saying the next president could be "more hardline" than the current one.
"The talk is that if anyone is going to replace Putin it's going to be somebody more - well, not hardline, but more hardline than Putin," he said.
"That isn't necessarily good news."
However he added: "I think there are people who are pragmatic and who aren't sort of entirely hitched to the war, and although they might not be ideal interlocutors for the West they still may be people who have political room for manoeuvre to come to some kind of deal, peace deal, with Ukrainians, and end this war."
There have been growing questions over Putin's health in recent months.
Changes in his appearance and behaviour have led to claims he is suffering from an illness such as Parkinson's, while others have said his symptoms could be side effects of steroid treatment.
In April a video circulated that some said showed him suffering an "uncontrollable convulsive movement" during a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Another video showed him tightly gripping a table during a meeting with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu.
Some said it was an indicator he was trying to hide a tremor - which can be a symptom of Parkinson's as well as a side effect of steroid treatment.
More recently, the president was pictured with a blanket over his knees during a military parade on Russia's Victory Day.
None of the veterans he was with had their laps covered.
The 69-year-old also appeared to be walking with a heavy step, as if trying to conceal a limp.