In early May 2022, various news outlets reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin was preparing to transfer power temporarily while he supposedly undergoes and recovers from surgery for an unspecified form of cancer.
The stories, which were thinly sourced, did not specify when he would allegedly relinquish power, and we found no verified or independent evidence to support these claims.
For example, an article published by the New York Post on May 2, 2022, headlined, “Putin to undergo cancer surgery, transfer power to ex-FSB chief: report,” based the claim on a video posted to the messaging platform Telegram from what the Post described as a “mysterious,” anonymously-run Telegram account called “General SVR.”
Although the person or group behind the account is unknown, the Post describes it as being “purportedly run by a former Russian Foreign Intelligence Service lieutenant general known by the pseudonym ‘Viktor Mikhailovich’ [sic],” after a famous 19th century Russian artist. The account has almost 282,000 subscribers, as of this writing.
We reached out to the U.S. Department of State, asking if the rumor that Putin would temporarily transfer his power while undergoing surgery had any credibility. A spokesperson for the department told Snopes by email that they “don’t have anything to offer” in response.
As of this writing, we were unable to locate the video on which the Post based its report to corroborate its authenticity. But we did find another post from the same Telegram account dated April 28, 2022, that claimed Putin in late April 2022 met with Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russia’s Security Council, about taking over while Putin supposedly undergoes surgery. The post didn’t specify exactly when this was would take place, only claiming it would be in the “near future.” (We used Google Translate for a rough Russian-English translation of the Telegram post.)
There have long been unconfirmed rumors that Putin is ill. But, as the English-language German news outlet DW noted in an April 28, 2022, article, speculation regarding the health of world leaders is a common public fixation. And speculation about Putin’s health has escalated during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has been beset by what appear to be serious tactical failings.
In other examples of health rumors, as DW reported, some people have shared videos of a shaky-looking Putin, claiming without credible evidence that he has Parkinson’s disease. In years past, there was also widespread speculation about the mental health of former U.S. President Donald Trump, just as there is speculation about the health of current U.S. President Joe Biden.
[See also on Snopes: We Noticed This Trend in Misinformation Since Biden Took Office]
Farberov, Snejana and.Evan Simko-Bednarski. “Putin to Undergo Cancer Surgery, Transfer Power to Ex-FSB Chief: Report.” New York Post, 2 May 2022, https://nypost.com/2022/05/02/vladimir-putin-to-undergo-cancer-surgery-transfer-power/.
Jackson, Jon. “Putin’s Health Questioned after Video of Him Gripping Table Circulates.” Newsweek, 21 Apr. 2022, https://www.newsweek.com/vladimir-putin-health-speculation-meeting-video-1699854.
“Nine Ways Russia Botched Its Invasion of Ukraine.” Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/04/08/how-russia-botched-ukraine-invasion/.
Roth, Clare. “Putin and Parkinson’s: What Experts Say about His Health | DW | 28.04.2022.” DW.com, 28 April 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/putin-and-parkinsons-what-experts-say-about-his-health/a-61597476.