Ukraine LIVE: How Putin’s loyal defence minister can take top spot when he dies

Vladimir Putin’s health has reportedly spiralled in recent weeks, with his defence minister tipped to take over should the Russian leader die.

Reports have claimed Putin is suffering from cancer, Parkinson’s and other illnesses, despite his spokesman saying the leaders health is “excellent”.

Dr Sarah Whitmore, an expert in Russian domestic politics at Oxford Brookes University, told The Mirror Initially Mikhail Mishustin, the Prime Minister, would automatically assume power if Putin died in office.

She then said defence minister Sergei Shoigu could be named as Putin’s successor.

She said: “If Putin were to suddenly die from an illness then people would have to be told and there has to be a sort of succession organised.

“According to the constitution, the Prime Minister takes over and then an election needs to be organised within three months.

“It is very likely the regime around Putin would choose a suitable trustworthy successor to suit their interests.

“Someone we know like Shoigu, he’s been touted as a potential successor and seen as a popular and acceptable face.

“Or it could be someone we don’t know like how Putin came in – he was a nobody at the time.

“Who may even be more hardline. Where there seem to be expressions of discontent, it has tended to be critical that Putin isn’t going sufficiently hard in Ukraine and that he has been too gentle.”