Putin faces fight to stay on throne as illness leaves Kremlin in ‘disarray and chaos’

The claims were made by Christopher Steele, who was in charge of the Russian desk at MI6 for three years between 2006 and 2009. Speculation about the Russian leader’s health has reached fever pitch in recent weeks. An unnamed Russian oligarch reportedly said Putin was “very ill with blood cancer” in a leaked audio recording that was published by the US magazine New Lines.

Despited repeated assertions by the Kremlin that the Russian despot is fighting fit, the rumours have refused to go away.

In an interview this week with LBC, Mr Steele said the Russian president was “increasingly ill” and had a team of doctors on hand at all times.

The former spy also claimed that Putin’s illness was creating a power vacuum at the heart of Russian politics, which threatened to undermine his regime.

He explained: “Our understanding is that there’s increasing disarray in the Kremlin and chaos.

“There’s no clear political leadership coming from Putin, who is increasingly ill, and in military terms, the structures of command and so on are not functioning as they should.”

He added: “What we do know is that he’s constantly accompanied around the place by a team of doctors.”

Mr Steele said the Russian president often had to leave government meetings early to receive medical treatment.

He noted: “It’s certainly having a very serious impact on the governance of Russia at the moment.”

Ukraine’s military intelligence chief suggested that Kremlin insiders were already plotting to remove the Russian leader.

Major General Kyrylo Budanov told Sky News last week that a coup was underway and could not be stopped.

He said: “This process has already been launched.

READ MORE: Russian state host rages over Brussels being an ‘branch of NATO’

Local governor Serhiy Haidai said the Russians were “destroying” the city as they gradually surrounded it.

Writing on the messaging app Telegram, he said his troops had repelled 11 attacks on the frontline – with eight tanks among the Russian vehicles destroyed.

Meanwhile Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said today that the war can only be resolved through “diplomacy”, amid a deadlock in negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow.

Speaking on Ukrainian TV, he said: “The end will be through diplomacy.

“The war will be bloody, there will be fighting, but it will only definitively end through diplomacy.”