The former head of the U.K.’s foreign intelligence service believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be succeeded by Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, if his health fails.
Ex-MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove made the prediction on the longtime Russian leader’s potential replacement during an episode of the One Decision podcast that was released on Thursday. Dearlove’s comments come amid global speculation over Putin’s health as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine surpasses five months.
“I would go as far as to say almost for certain, it would be Patrushev at the moment,” Dearlove said. “Whether that figure will survive politically in the longer term, is entirely another question.”
Patrushev is a close ally of Putin who has attempted to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its goals in the war-torn country, The Washington Post reported. Like Putin, Patrushev served in the KGB, the main security agency for the Soviet Union. The Security Council of Russia, for which he is the secretary, is a “separate department of the Presidential Executive Office,” according to the Kremlin’s website.
In predicting that Patrushev could be a successor for Putin if his health fails, Dearlove was agreeing with Dr. Louise Shelley, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia and director of the school’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center that she founded. Shelley said on the podcast that she believes if Putin were to become ill, it would be a member of the siloviki that takes his place. Shelley described the siloviki, or security forces, as “the power structures of Russia.”
“Someone like Patrushev, somebody who is in Putin’s inner circle at the moment,” would likely succeed him, Shelley said.
“Whether that person would survive in power a long time, I don’t know. But that’s what I see as the next scenario,” she added.
Dearlove responded that he “absolutely” agreed with Shelley.
“It’ll definitely be initially one of the siloviki,” he said.
Any successor would take office in a country that has seen Putin maintain his grip on power for more than two decades while serving as the country’s prime minister and president. In April 2021, Putin signed a law that reset the terms he has served back to zero and could allow him to seek two additional terms. If he chooses to do so and succeeds, the additional 12 years would make him president of Russia until 2036.
Putin, 69, has faced an onslaught of rumors that he is suffering from poor health or some type of ailment. Russia has dismissed these rumors as hearsay, but the denials have not halted discussions on who could replace Putin if he could no longer serve as president.
Sergei Pugachev, who was head of the presidential campaign that brought Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin 22 years ago, gave an interview to El Independiente in which he spoke about how the current president of Russia behaves behind closed doors and gave an indication about what his current state of health is.
Pugachev, nicknamed “Putin’s banker,” is an international investor who was part of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle at the turn of the century. However, since 2011 he fell out of favor with the Russian president and has been immersed in multiple criminal proceedings. As a result, his assets (which amount to 15,000 million dollars) were frozen and he was forced to leave Russia for Great Britain and later ended up in France, where he currently resides.
From that moment on, Pugachev has never missed the opportunity to take revenge by talking openly about a Vladimir Putin whom he defines as “a pathological liar” who “lies for no reason. He did it to me and he has done it again now in Ukraine. The bombs fall on civilian targets but instead Putin says they do not attack civilians”.
The person who was Putin’s shadow during his beginnings in the Kremlin said of the Russian leader, “It is evident that he is not in his best state. He was someone who took great care of himself.”.
Pugachev added that “Putin used to swim for four hours a day; then he received massages and they gave him a manicure and pedicure,” – care that, according to him, does not correspond to his current appearance.
“He is only 69 years old but he looks 90 years old. So, given all the money and resources he has, he’s probably very sick. Even people who have worked their entire lives in a mine look better,” Pugachev warned.
Putin’s obsession with money
The interviewee says that “when Putin was chosen as a presidential candidate, he made it clear that he was doing it for money. “He told us, ‘I can be your president; just pay me’”.
Regarding the wealth that Putin could have accumulated during his long term in office, Pugachev revealed, “Starting out from the fact that there was a tacit agreement to consider that all businesses belong to the leader, and that the businessmen accepted it as a new way of operating, the fortune built up by Putin and his family could exceed trillions of dollars”.
About this system, Putin’s former campaign manager points out that “the oligarchs understood towards the end of the 2000s that all the money they had amassed was common property. All their fortunes were under Putin’s responsibility or belonged to him. Today, the system is like a cooperative in the hands of Putin and those closest to him.”