A senior Royal Navy admiral has claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin hastily decided to attack Ukraine because he is terminally ill. The now-retired Falklands veteran Rear Admiral Chris Parry made the claims during an interaction with children at a school last week.

"He has been using these very long tables to interview people. I think his immune system might be suppressed at the moment. So, he is a man in a hurry," MARCA quoted him as saying. A Pentagon source had also claimed that Putin is suffering from "terminal bowel cancer."

"In the past, we have seen him smile, but in 2022 there are few pictures of him looking happy," the source added. "His look suggests he is in pain and our people suggest his angry look is most likely as a result of him being in agony."

Fiona Hill, an expert on Russian issues told Politico: "Putin's not looking so great, he's been rather puffy-faced. We know that he has complained about having back issues."

"Even if it's not something worse than that, it could be that he's taking high doses of steroids, or there may be something else. There seems to be an urgency for this that may be also driven by personal factors," she added.

Political scientist Valery Solovei had earlier claimed that Putin has cancer and also has symptoms of Parkinson's Disease. Prof Solovei is the former head of the Public Relations Department at Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

People again started talking about Putin's health after he looked "ashen and bloated" in the latest pictures released by the Kremlin.

Putin sitting at the other end of a 13-ft table during a meeting with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron had also led to people making speculations about his health.

Talks with President of France Emmanuel Macron https://t.co/kP4bXUKPgl pic.twitter.com/BwoGCIlLIs

— President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) February 7, 2022

However, all these claims are unverified and there has been no official statement from Kremlin on Putin's health so far.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently rebuffed the illness rumours and said: "Some people say he has cancer, and some people say brain fog from COVID. Other people just think he's a complete raging bully. But whatever it is, the people of Ukraine are paying the price for it."

"I have met with some heads of state who have met with him [Putin] and they just take it at face value the evil he is putting forth as something that we have to deal with. They're not making a diagnosis of his health," said Pelosi.

Russia's nearly two-week-old assault has seen more than 1.7 million people flee the country in what the UN has called Europe's fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired a long meeting of his Security Council over the Ukraine crisis Photo: SPUTNIK via AFP / Alexey NIKOLSKY