The former head of the UK’s foreign intelligence service believes that the Russian president Vladimir Poutine would be replaced by Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, if his health fails.
Former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove made the prediction over the longtime Russian leader’s potential replacement during a episode of the A decision podcast which was released on Thursday. Dearlove’s comments come amid global speculation over Putin’s health as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exceeds five months.
“I would go so far as to say almost with certainty that it would be Patrushev right now,” Dearlove said. “Whether this number will survive politically in the longer term is a whole other question.”
Putin, 69, has faced a wave of rumors that he is suffering from poor health or some type of disease. Russia has dismissed these rumors as hearsaybut the denials didn’t stop talks about who could replace Putin if he could no longer be president.
Patrushev is a close Putin ally who has tried 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 of the Soviet Union. Russia’s Security Council, of which he is secretary, is a “separate department of the presidential executive office”, according to the Kremlin’s website.
In predicting that Patrushev could be Putin’s successor if his health fails, Dearlove agreed 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 believed that if Putin got sick, it would be a member of the siloviki who would take his place. Shelley described the siloviki, or security forces, as “Russia’s power structures”.
“Someone like Patrushev, someone who is in Putin’s inner circle right now,” would likely succeed him, Shelley said.
“I don’t know if this person will survive for long in power. But that’s what I see as the next scenario,” she added.
Dearlove replied that he “absolutely” agrees with Shelley.
“It will definitely be one of the siloviki first,” 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 which resets the terms he has served and could allow him to seek two additional terms. If he chooses to do so and is successful, the additional 12 years will make him President of Russia until 2036.
Newsweek contacted the Kremlin for comment.