Rumors surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s behavior and mental health have reemerged since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to several reports, igniting speculation among figures close to the Russian president.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted Friday that “something is off” with Putin, alluding to a “problem” with his decision-making faculties. Rubio’s thoughts echoed those of some of the people most familiar with the Russian president, who say Putin’s mental health has recently deteriorated and he is exhibiting signs of paranoia.
“He has withdrawn into himself a lot during the past two years. He has become distanced from the bureaucratic machinery, from the establishment, from the elite,” Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of political analysis firm R.Politik told The Times. “He spends a lot of time alone stewing in his own fears and thoughts.”
Stanovaya said that Putin has grown less measured in his decision-making in recent years.
“He doesn’t ask for advice. He sets tasks and demands they are implemented,” she said.
Gleb Pavlovsky, former Kremlin political strategist who was fired by Putin in 2011, told The Times the Russian president has grown increasingly obsessive and single-minded.
“He was inclined then to discuss things with advisers and he was more open to alternative opinions,” he said, The Times reported, adding that the attack in Ukraine was not in line with Putin’s previous thinking.
“The previous Putin would not have done this. He was a very sane-thinking person,” Pavlovksy said. “But this has all vanished now. He has an obsession about Ukraine that he didn’t previously have. He is reacting now to the pictures in his own head.”
Andrey Kortunov, director of the Russian International Affairs Council, said Saturday that Putin’s behavior, particularly his decision to invade Ukraine, completely blindsided top Kremlin officials.
“I would say that many of us in the foreign office were surprised and I would say shocked and I would even say devastated to see what is happening,” Kortunov said.
The reports come amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which has faced several setbacks. While Russia has made steady territorial gains, it has yet to take Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, and Russia was hit with severe economic sanctions by the United States and the EU over the past few days.