Cancer rumour surrounds Putin as Mariupol civilians finally evacuated

·News Editor
·4-min read

The health of Russian president Vladimir Putin has again become the source of speculation with unverified reports claiming the 69-year-old is set to undergo treatment for abdominal cancer.

The unverified claim has been reported widely in British tabloids, citing a popular Russian Telegram channel General SVR, which said its source was a well-placed figure known in the Kremlin.

"Putin has discussed that he will be undergoing medical procedures," the anonymous source claimed, saying he would have to temporarily hand over control of the country's war in Ukraine while he was incapacitated.

While it's unclear if there is any veracity to the claim it has sparked a new flurry of speculation about the leader's health, following his seemingly strange and at times isolated behaviour.

Speculation about Vladimir Putin's health is nothing new.
Speculation about Vladimir Putin's health is nothing new. Source: Reuters

"I have no idea if Putin has cancer. But I do know that Putin has never before been germ phobic and the huge space between him and visitors is the degree of social distancing that doctors recommend to cancer patients, who are almost all immunosuppressed," veteran US journalist Jonathan Alter tweeted.

It is simply the latest in a long line of rumours about the Russian dictator. Recent videos showing him appear shaky and struggling to maintain control of his right arm have added fuel to the fire.

An earlier investigation by Russian news outlet Proekt revealed Putin was "constantly" accompanied by a medical team, including an oncologist.

Other claims made by political analyst Valery Solovei in November argued Putin was showing symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

In November, the Kremlin denied the claim which was also seized upon by British tabloids as "absolute nonsense".

"Everything is fine with the president," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at the time, Reuters reported.

Mariupol civilians finally flee underground bunkers

Civilians have been evacuated from the bunkers of Mariupol's Azovstal steel works after the United Nations and the International Red Cross led a deal to ease the ordeal of the most destructive siege of the war in Ukraine.

Russian forces pummelled the port city for nearly two months, turning Mariupol into a wasteland with an unknown death toll and thousands trying to survive without water, sanitation or food.

The city is under Russian control but some fighters and civilians have sheltered underground in the Azovstal works - a vast Soviet-era plant founded under Josef Stalin and designed with a labyrinth of bunkers and tunnels to withstand attack.

A Reuters photographer saw dozens of civilians arriving on Sunday at a temporary accommodation centre. The United Nations later said that an operation to evacuate people from the steel works had been under way since Friday (local time).

The "UN confirms that a safe passage operation is ongoing in Azovstal steel plant, in coordination with the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and the parties to the conflict," UN spokesperson Saviano Abreu said.

"At this point, and as the operations are underway, we will not share further details, as it could jeopardise the safety of the civilians and the convoy," he said.

The convoy had travelled 230 kilometres to reach the steel works, the ICRC said.

Children are seen with a cat at a temporary accommodation centre following the evacuation
Children are seen with a cat at a temporary accommodation centre following the evacuation. Source: Reuters
Azovstal steel plant employee Valeria, last name withheld, evacuated from Mariupol, hugs her son Matvey, who had earlier left the city with his relatives.
Azovstal steel plant employee Valeria, last name withheld, evacuated from Mariupol, hugs her son Matvey, who had earlier left the city with his relatives. Source: Reuters

The Reuters photographer saw civilians arriving in the village of Bezimenne in an area of Donetsk under the control of Russia-backed separatists around 30km east of Mariupol.

They were receiving refreshments and care after weeks of suffering.

Young children were among those evacuated from the plant - where people cowered underground, huddling together under blankets in the plant's bunkers and tunnels as the shelling tore their city apart.

A first group of 100 evacuees will arrive in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Monday President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted.

with Reuters

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