World: Nikolai Patrushev — a longtime Putin ally — would 'almost certainly' replace Putin if he falls ill, predicts former British intelligence chief

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Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with the Secretary-General of the Japanese National Security Council. Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images © Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with the Secretary-General of the Japanese National Security Council. Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images
  • The former head of MI6 predicted Nikolai Patrushev will replace Putin if the president falls ill.
  • Patrushev, a top security official, is one of few people known to have Putin's ear.
  • Richard Dearlove made the comments this week on his podcast "One Decision."

A former KGB comrade of Vladimir Putin's could be next in line to take the Russian president's place in power, the former head of British intelligence predicted.

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Speculation over a possible Putin replacement has surged in recent months amid conflicting reports that the Russian leader's health could be in decline. Kremlin insiders have even quietly begun discussing potential successors in case Putin is forced out over the Ukrainian invasion or succumbs to a hypothetical illness, according to reports.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who served as head of the UK's Secret Intelligence Service from 1999 to 2004, asserted this week that the most likely heir candidate is Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia's Security Council and a longtime Putin ally known to be one of exceedingly few officials to have the president's trust.

"I'm almost certain it would Patrushev," Dearlove said on a Thursday episode of the podcast "One Decision," which he co-hosts, during a discussion about the ongoing impacts of Putin's war in Ukraine, more than five months after Russian forces invaded.

The former MI6 chief has previously theorized about Putin's likely longevity. In May, Dearlove on his podcast predicted that Putin will be out of power by 2023 and forced into a medical facility for long-term illness in an effort to remove the president without a coup.

The Kremlin has denied that Putin is suffering from any health issues, and Putin himself said in June that such claims were "greatly exaggerated." CIA Director William Burns this month also dispelled rumors about the state of Putin's health, saying "as far as we can tell, he's entirely too healthy."

But questions remain, and Patrushev's emergence as a dependable frontman and frequent, public promoter of Russia's war in recent months has prompted questions about his personal aims and whether or not he may be seeking Putin's power for himself.

A Kremlin spokesperson told The Washington Post earlier this month that Patrushev's role had not significantly changed and brushed off suggestions that the security secretary had amassed new powers. Similarly, a spokesperson for the Security Council denied to the outlet that Patrushev is seeking any advancement.

Still, it seems experts consider Patrushev a man to watch. On Thursday's "One Decision" episode, both Dearlove and Louise Shelley, an expert on Russian money, predicted that, should Putin fall ill, it would be a member of the Siloviki — or high-ranking officials in top Russian institutions — that would take his place. Patrushev's role as Security Council secretary is akin to the national security adviser in the US.

While Russia's oligarchs have become fodder for fascination in the wake of the war, Shelley told the podcast that Putin's replacement would be unlikely to come from such a pool.

"In general, the oligarchs at the moment have very little influence  on Putin," she said. "He is living in a very close circle with his close advisers."

But whether Patrushev or any other replacement would last, is another question entirely, the experts said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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