Potential Putin successor be even be even worse

Russia: Putin’s portrait on fire in Dagestan

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Vladimir Putin is under increasing pressure more than seven months into his war on Ukraine – but his replacement could be a man even more hostile to the West, a new analysis has warned. The Russian President lashed out last week, hinting at the possible use of nuclear weapons, as well as issuing a partial mobilisation order which triggered protests across the country.

Earlier this month, more than 40 local elected officials across Russia signed a petition which ended with: “We demand the resignation of Vladimir Putin from the post of president of the Russian Federation!”

Should Putin be overthrown, there is a long list of possible successors – but no guarantees of peace even if it does happen.

The Politico report compared 12 high-profile figures touted as possible replacements, as well as assessing what they would bring to the role – and concluded that Nikolai Patrushev, the 71-year-old former head of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, was in the box seat.

The report explains Patrushev, now secretary of the Security Council of Russia, “has the advantage of sharing a worldview with Putin — one that is shot through with hostility toward the West in general, and toward the United States in particular”.

It adds: “If anything, Patrushev’s views are more extreme: In a Security Council meeting days before Putin ordered troops into Ukraine in February, Patrushev accused Washington of pursuing a hidden agenda to bring about ‘the collapse of the Russian Federation’.”

Patrushev previously accused former Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State, of arguing that Siberia and the Far East should not belong to Russia.

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The report says: “This allegation had no known basis in fact, leading to speculation that it originated in a top-secret project where Moscow spies hired mindreaders to tap into the thoughts of Western leaders.”

With Putin spending most of his time in the Kremlin, Patrushev has assumed “a more active role” the report explains, including a recent visit to China.

However, his age counts against him, and he would be likely to be a “transitional figure” rather than a long-term solution.

Speaking to Express.co.uk last month, former CIA officer Robert Baer likewise suggested Patrushev was the most likely option, adding: “Russia’s a police state, the FSB controlling everything and he’s the puppet master.”

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The report considers a total of 11 other possibilities:

Dmitry Medvedev

Medvedev, 57, Putin’s right-hand man served one term as Russia’s President in 2008 in a move which permitted Putin to retain his grip on power while adhering to rules related to constitutional term limits.

The report says: “War has been unkind to Medvedev, whose attempts to shed his image as Putin’s less-evil twin by posing as a nuclear madman have been drowned out by outbursts of hysterical laughter from readers of his Telegram channel.”

Alexei Dyumin

Putin’s former bodyguard, Dyumin is believed to have saved Putin from a bear by shooting a gun at its feet, scaring it off. Now the Governor of Tula, he was also a special forces commander during the 2014 annexation of Crimean.

The report says: “Dyumin is, by some accounts, a Putin favourite but his preferred status would make him vulnerable should a power struggle break out in the Kremlin.”

Dmitry Patrushev

The son of Nikolai, Dmitry, 44, was appointed agriculture minister in 2018.

The report says: “However remote the prospect, a princeling president could ease fears in the wider world that Russia, facing defeat in Ukraine, would launch a suicidal nuclear escalation. A hereditary ruler would, by definition, have a stronger instinct for survival than a crazed dictator holed up in an underground bunker.”

The Troika

Another possibility which is floated is that of leadership by a committee of senior figures.

The report says: “Speculating on who might conspire to oust Putin is a fool’s errand but, if history is anything to go by, the representatives of the “power ministries” on the Security Council would be in the mix – however loyal to Putin they may now seem.

“Watch out for Patrushev Sr, FSB boss Alexander Bortnikov, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (a wily survivor who has, however, had a terrible war).”

Mikhail Mishustin

Officially, as Prime Minister, Mishustin, 56 is the man who would take the reins should Putin be unable to carry out his duties.

The report explains: “If Putin is incapacitated, the constitution does not explicitly allow him to stage a comeback should he recover. Could it be a case of finders keepers?”

Sergei Sobyanin

Moscow Mayor Sobyanin could emerge if protests in the Russian capital spiral out of control, the report suggests.

However, it adds: “This is by no means a base-case scenario: Protests against Putin’s mobilisation order are nowhere near reaching the scale of the Euromaidan movement in Kyiv that forced Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power in early 2014.”

Alexei Navalny

Lawyer Navalny, 46, is currently in prison after being convicted on highly questionable fraud charges.

The report says: “Showing extraordinary courage, Navalny continues to oppose the war from behind bars. But his chances of following Nelson Mandela from a prison cell to the presidency are slight.”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Former oil baron Khodorkovsky, 59, is currently in exile and a fierce critic of the Putin regime.

The report says: “Yet his history as a ruthless businessman has not been forgotten by older Russians who still harbour bitter memories of the chaotic Yeltsin years, when an oligarch cabal amassed vast assets through corrupt privatisations that stripped the nation of its Soviet industrial patrimony.”

Mikhail Mizintsev

The so-called “butcher of Mariupol”, Mizintsev, 60, spearheaded the brutal siege which left 20,000 Ukrainians dead.

The report says: “Mizintsev may not be a direct contender for power but will be a face to watch in the days and weeks to come.”

Ramzan Kadyrov

Chechnya’s leader has in the past described Ukrainians as neo-Nazi “devils”. However, his most likely response to Putin’s death would be to push for independence.

Yevgeny Prigozhin

The 61-year-old runs Putin’s Wagner mercenary army, and this month delivered a recruitment speech in a prison, offering convicts freedom if they fought in Ukraine for six months and survived.

Christo Grozev of investigative website Bellingcat recently tweeted: “Wagnerites tell me they’d vote for him over Putin any time, and it seems to me he smells blood.”

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