Russian President Vladimir Putin might undergo cancer surgery while temporarily handing over power to the secretary of the country's Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, unverified media reports claimed.
Putin has reportedly been told by doctors that he must undergo an operation, the New York Post reported citing a Telegram channel purportedly run by a former Russian Foreign Intelligence Service lieutenant general.
The anticipated surgery and recovery are expected to incapacitate Putin for "a short time," the report said.
Referring to Putin's supposedly "sickly appearance and uncharacteristically fidgety behaviour in public" in recent times, the report said that the Russian President has been rumoured to suffer from cancer and a host of other serious maladies, including Parkinson's disease.
However, a US official said that the media reports could not be verified with Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby saying on Monday that "I have seen nothing that could help us corroborate that," New York Post reported.
A few days ago, Putin allegedly had a two-hour "heart-to-heart" conversation with Nikolai Patrushev, the report said citing a Telegram post.
"We know that Putin signalled to Patrushev that he considers him to be practically his only trusted ally and friend in the government," the post claimed. "Additionally, the president promised that if his health takes a turn for the worse, actual control of the country will temporarily pass into Patrushev's hands."
"Patrushev is an outright villain. He is no better than Vladimir Putin. Moreover, he is a more cunning, and I would say, more insidious person than Vladimir Putin. If he comes to power, Russians' problems will only multiply," the owner of the Telegram channel which claimed about Putin's cancer surgery said.
"Putin is unlikely to agree to hand over power for a longer period of time," the Telegram channel further claimed, adding that the control of the country will likely be in Patrushev's hands for no more than two to three days.
Russia's Security Council, of which Patruchev is the secretary is an influential body that answers directly to Putin and issues guidance on military and security issues within Russia, the New York Post reported, adding, that, most of the council's power is vested in Patrushev, who is widely seen as a staunch Putin ally.
Like Putin, Patrushev is a career Russian intelligence agent, first with the Soviet KGB, then later with the Russian FSB, the report said citing Moscow Times.
Last week, in a rare interview with state-run Russian paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Patrushev accused America and Europe of backing neo-Nazi ideology in Ukraine and seeking to draw the conflict out "to the last Ukrainian," the report said.
"Using their henchmen in Kyiv, the Americans, in an attempt to suppress Russia, decided to create an antipode of our country, cynically choosing Ukraine for this, trying to divide essentially a single people," he reportedly said.
Questions over the Russian President's health have been raised in recent weeks, especially after he was seen tightly gripping a desk during his meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu last month.