As rumors swirl about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s supposed battle with cancer, a new report claims the strongman would temporarily hand power over to hardliner Nikolai Patrushev if health issues sidelined him.
The claims have not been independently verified, and Moscow roundly denies that Putin is in ill health. But who is the man who will helm the Kremlin if Putin takes a sick day?
Nikolai Patrushev, 70, is the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, an influential body that answers directly to Putin and issues guidance on military and security issues within Russia. Most of the council’s power is vested in Patrushev, who is widely seen as a staunch Putin ally.
Like Putin, Patrushev is a career Russian intelligence agent, first with the Soviet KGB, then later with the Russian FSB, according to the English-language newspaper Moscow Times. The paper likened Patrushev’s role to that of an American national security adviser.
In a 2017 profile, Politico called Patrushev a “Kremlin hawk” known for his “fiery nationalism, conspiratorial worldview and extensive espionage experience.”
Patrushev joined the KGB as a young man in 1974, according to Politico. After meeting Putin in the 1990s, Patrushev was made head of the Russian domestic intelligence service, the FSB — a post he occupied for a decade. He became part of Putin’s Security Council in 2008.
The ex-spy was reportedly among Putin’s cadre of advisers during Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and he is unsurprisingly a hardline supporter of Putin’s current, illegal invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, in a rare interview with state-run Russian paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Patrushev accused America and Europe of backing neo-Nazi ideology in Ukraine and seeking to draw the conflict out “to the last Ukrainian.”
Patrushev also pushed the false Kremlin line that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, divided only at the behest of Western powers.
“Using their henchmen in Kyiv, the Americans, in an attempt to suppress Russia, decided to create an antipode of our country, cynically choosing Ukraine for this, trying to divide essentially a single people,” he said.
Patrushev has also suggested that the war would lead to the dismemberment of Ukraine.
“The result of the policy of the West and the regime in Kyiv can only be the disintegration of Ukraine into several states.” he said.
With Post wires