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Head of UK armed forces dismisses claims that Putin is seriously ill or at risk of assassination as ‘wishful thinking’

Russian President Vladimir Putin at an Orthodox Easter mass in Moscow, Russia, on April 24, 2022.

Contributor/Getty Images

  • The Head of the UK military dismissed what he called fanciful claims that Putin may be near death.
  • Sir Tony Radakin said the “threat of Russia” would be present for decades.
  • It came after Ukrainian officials and others pushed rumors suggest Putin may soon die.

The head of the UK armed forces has said claims Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is ill or could be assassinated are “wishful thinking.”

Sir Tony Radakin, the UK’s chief of the Defence Staff, made the comments in a Sunday interview with the BBC.

When asked about the stability of the Russian government, Sir Tony Radakin said “I think some of these comments that ‘he’s not well’ or ‘surely someone is going to assassinate him’, they’re wishful thinking.” 

He said, “nobody at the top [of the Russian government] has the motivation to challenge President Putin” and said the country would continue to threaten the West for years.

He also argued that Russia has been badly damaged by its invasion of Ukraine, citing its losses of equipment and soldiers there, and noting that its original plan to swiftly conquer the nation did not work.

Radakin did not cite specific claims of Putin being either ill or at risk of assassination.

But claims of health problems have for years followed Putin — as noted in an article by Insider’s Mia Jankowicz.

Since the invasion of Ukraine began, the claims became more prominent. An anonymous Russian oligarch claimed to have been told Putin had a kind of blood cancer.

Ukrainian intelligence officials also made claims of ill-health and instability around Putin, without evidence to support it.

At one point they alleged that an assassination attempt had taken place, a claim which drew skepticism from Western officials.

In late May, Insider’s John Haltiwanger and Mattathias Schwartz reported that US intelligence and military experts had concluded that there was no good evidence that Putin was seriously unwell.

They wrote that, similar to Radakin’s assessment, wishful thinking may be at the root of such claims.

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