Who is Nikolai Patrushev? Russia could take over while Putin recovers

As rumors circulate about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged battle with cancer, a new report claims the strongman would temporarily hand over power to hardliner Nikolai Patrushev if health issues sidelined him.

The claims have not been independently verified, and Moscow adamantly denies that Putin has any health problems. But who is the man who will run the Kremlin if Putin is absent due to illness?

Nikolai Patrushev, 70, is the secretary of the Russian Security Council, an influential body that answers directly to Putin and issues guidance on military and security issues inside Russia. Most of the council’s power is in the hands of Patrushev, who is widely seen as a staunch ally of Putin.

Like Putin, Patrushev is a career Russian intelligence agent, first in the Soviet KGB and then in the Russian FSB, according to the English-language Moscow Times. The newspaper compared Patrushev’s role to that of an American national security adviser.

In a 2017 profile, Politico called Patrushev a “Kremlin hawk” known for his “fierce 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 appointed head of Russia’s national intelligence service, the FSB, a post he held for a decade. He became part of Putin’s Security Council in 2008.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev could be in charge of Russia should Putin be sidelined.
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President Vladimir Putin (right) and FSB security services chief Nikolai Patrushev (left) fly in a helicopter to visit a military post in Nalchik on February 4, 2008.
President Vladimir Putin and FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev (left) fly in a helicopter to visit a military post in Nalchik on February 4, 2008.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP via Getty Images

The former spy was reportedly among Putin’s cadre of advisers during Russia’s annexation of Crimea to Ukraine in 2014, and unsurprisingly, he is a hardline supporter of Russia’s ongoing illegal invasion of Ukraine. Putin.

Last week, in a rare interview with the Russian state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Patrushev accused the United States and Europe of backing neo-Nazi ideology in Ukraine and trying to prolong the conflict “until the last Ukrainian.”

Patrushev also promoted the Kremlin’s false line that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, divided only at the behest of Western powers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right, front), accompanied by Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev (right, back), attend a meeting with senior officials from the BRICS countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right, front), accompanied by Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev (right, background), attend a meeting with senior officials from the BRICS countries.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and then-Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev (center) arrive for a meeting with security and intelligence chiefs in 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (from right) and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev arrive for a meeting with security and intelligence chiefs in 2017.
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“Using their minions in kyiv, the Americans, in an attempt to suppress Russia, decided to create an antipodal to our country, cynically choosing Ukraine for this, trying to essentially divide a single people,” he said.

Patrushev also suggested that the war would lead to the dismemberment of the Ukraine.

“The result of the policy of the West and the kyiv regime can only be the disintegration of Ukraine into several states.” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 14, 2016.
Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 14, 2016.
LINTAO ZHANG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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