The comment came from retired Rear Admiral Chris Parry during a debate with schoolchildren in Portsmouth on Friday evening, in which he warned of where the Russian leader might attack next.
Speaking to youngsters at the Portsmouth Grammar School – which Rear Adm Parry once attended – the top naval officer laid bare his thoughts about where the war between Vladimir Putin and Ukraine could go.
And during the hour-long seminar, carried out virtually, the decorated naval officer claimed that he believed president Putin could be battling cancer – which has prompted the Russian premier’s murderous assault on Ukraine.
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‘He has been using these very long tables to interview people,’ Falklands veteran Rear Adm Parry said. ‘I think his immune system might be suppressed at the moment. So he is a man in a hurry.’
The reference comes after Putin was photographed and filmed staging interviews with senior world leaders and Russian military commanders on a bizarrely long table.
In February, days before he launched his invasion of Ukraine, the Russian leader was photographed speaking to French president Emmanuel Macron across a 20ft table.
In recent days, president Putin has been filmed holding meetings with top Russian military officials and Kremlin ministers at his absurdly-long table, prompting claims he is scared of contracting Covid-19.
The baffling length of Putin’s table was ridiculed by embattled Ukrainian president and former comedian, Volodymyr Zelensky during a press conference earlier this week.
‘Sit down with me to negotiate, just not at 30 metres,’ Mr Zelensky said on Thursday, seemingly mocking Mr Putin’s meeting furniture. ‘I don’t bite. What are you afraid of?’ the defiant Ukrainian leader added.
During Rear Adm Parry’s discussion with children at Portsmouth Grammar School, the defence expert described how the war began – and warned of how far president Putin might take it.
‘What I think will happen is he will occupy Ukraine to the east of the Dnieper [river], he will totally occupy this region known as “New Russia” across the bottom of the country, cutting Ukraine off from the Black Sea, and he will leave that rump of the north west, to the west of Kyiv to its own devices as long as it stays neutral.’
As one of continental Europe’s longest rivers, the Dnieper slices Ukraine in half from north to south, coming from Belarus in the north to the Black Sea in the south.
Rear Adm Parry warned that Putin could seek to create a new land bridge in the south of Ukraine, encompassing Crimea – which Russia annexed in 2014 – with the Ukrainian naval port of Odessa in the west and Russia in the east.
And the 35-year naval veteran warned that Putin might not stop there, potentially seeking to invade Moldova. ‘I think that’s his next target,’ he added.
Moldova is not part of Nato, nor does it have any active plans to become a member.
It is constitutionally neutral, but does have relations with Nato via the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.