Russian President, Vladimir Putin, could be forced to step down next year, a Kremlin expert has claimed.
Valery Solovey, professor at Moscow State Institute of Foreign Affairs, hinted the 64-year-old leader might be suffering from ill health and may be forced to “avoid publicity in 2017 for several months or will appear very rarely”.
"As you see, this hypothetical situation is very nervy from the point of view of Russian policy", he said.
When asked if Putin was ill, he added: "Let me not say more, I have said enough.
"And let me stress once again: this information is not absolutely reliable. Still, it should be considered."
The political analyst’s comments appeared in an interview with news website Moskovsky Komsomolets but was deleted just hours after it went up, the Daily Mail reported.
Mr Solovey later took to social media to confirm his first interview was based on facts.
"Before the end of the year, the respected audience will get confirmation of everything mentioned in the much talked about interview", he said.
The article said Putin could be replaced by current premier Dmitry Medvedev, who has already served a four-year term as president which ended in 2012, or the former deputy defence minister Alexei Dyumin.