Nikolai Patrushev: ‘Villain’ poised to take over as ‘ill’ Putin has life-saving surgery

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The Russian President is reportedly planning to temporarily hand over power to undergo surgery amid suggestions of ill health. Vladimir Putin is alleged to have cancer or some other debilitating illness, according to leaks from the Kremlin via encrypted messaging services. The Telegraph chancel, General SVR, said to be run by an ex-Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Lieutenant General, claimed that Putin has been told by doctors the operation will incapacitate him “for a short time”.

If true, it means he will have to step down while recovering and hand power over to one of his closest and most trusted aides.

This person, it is believed, is Nikolai Patrushev, who reports suggest had a two-hour “heart-to-heart” with the Kremlin leader in recent days.

The 70-year-old is the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, a body that has major influence in the Kremlin and that answers directly to Putin, issuing guidance on military and security issues within the country.

Most of the council’s power is vested in Patrushev, who is widely seen as one of Putin’s most loyal supporters and belongs to the siloviki faction of his inner circle.

Nikolai Patrushev: Putin's right-hand man could temporarily take Russia over

Nikolai Patrushev: Putin’s right-hand man could temporarily take Russia over (Image: GETTY)

Vladimir Putin: The President pictured at Russia's Victory Day parade

Vladimir Putin: The President pictured at Russia’s Victory Day parade (Image: GETTY)

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Like Putin, Patrushev is a former Russian intelligence agent, first with the Soviet-era KGB and later with the Russian FSB.

According to Rebekah Koffler, who formerly served with the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) National Clandestine Service, Patrushev is the “most influential person in the Kremlin bureaucracy,” and the “only person” Putin trusts.

In her 2021 book, Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America, she details how the Russian President “is orchestrating a wide-ranging, multi-faceted campaign to retake his country’s role as a super-power, and to defeat America in the process”.

Writing in a piece for The New York Post in early May, she said Patrushev “rivals Putin as a villain”.

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History: The 70-year-old has had a place in Russian politics for decades

History: The 70-year-old has had a place in Russian politics for decades (Image: GETTY)

Ms Koffler wrote: “Some believe the two ordered FSB officials to bomb apartment buildings in Moscow, killing between 200 and 300 residents in 1999, in order to blame Chechen terrorists and give Russia a pretext to unleash war on Chechnya.

“As a result, the popularity of then-Prime Minister Putin rose, helping him secure the Russian presidency in March 2000.

“After Alexander Litvinenko accused Putin and Patrushev of orchestrating the bombings in his book ‘FSB Detonates Russia,’ he was poisoned by radioactive chemical Polonium-210, an assassination that British Supreme Court Judge Robert Owen concluded was ‘probably approved by President Putin and his Chief of FSB, Patrushev.'”

In a 2017 profile, Politico called Patrushev a “Kremlin hawk” known for his “fiery nationalism and conspiratorial worldview and extensive espionage experience.”

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World leaders: His seniority is reflected in his meetings with world leaders

World leaders: His seniority is reflected in his meetings with world leaders (Image: GETTY)

Kremlin: Patrushev is regularly seen sitting next to Putin at meetings and conferences

Kremlin: Patrushev is regularly seen sitting next to Putin at meetings and conferences (Image: GETTY)

He is thought to have met Putin in the Nineties, and was later made head of the Russian domestic intelligence service, the FSB — a post he occupied for a decade.

The former spy is also thought to have been among Putin’s team of advisers during Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

In late April, he gave a rare interview with the state-run affiliated newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Here, he accused the US and Europe of backing a neo-Nazi ideology in Ukraine and seeking to draw the conflict out “to the last Ukrainian”.

He also pushed the myth that has become a major propaganda point for the Kremlin that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, divided only by Western powers.

Putin profile: The Russian leader has been in power for nearly 20 years

Putin profile: The Russian leader has been in power for nearly 20 years (Image: Express Newspapers)

In the interview, Patrushev said: “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 went on to suggest that the war would lead to the subdivision of Ukraine.

He said: “The result of the policy of the West and the regime in Kyiv can only be the disintegration of Ukraine into several states.”

Partners: The pair pictured together during a council meeting in Moscow, 2009

Partners: The pair pictured together during a council meeting in Moscow, 2009 (Image: GETTY)

Later on in her piece, Ms Koffler said that Patrushev is also a “rabid anti-American propagandist” who recently accused the US of planning to nuke Ukraine and blame Russia.

She added: “There’s an old Russian saying. Literally translated, it means: ‘Two boots make a pair’. And Putin and Patrushev fit together perfectly.”

William Murphy

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