Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has commented for the first time on rumors that Russian President Vladimir Putin lives in isolation from the outside world and spends most of his time in a bunker. “They are lies,” he declared.
There is no evidence of Putin staying in the bunker, but there is credible evidence that he only communicates with the world through a small group of his closest associates and does not use a cell phone or the Internet.
Speculation on this topic was stirred up by the invasion of Ukraine, when it became clear last year that the Russian president had misjudged the situation and the people around him were presenting him with a picture of reality in such a way that he liked it as much as possible.
An important and credible testimony is the interview given by the former member of Putin’s bodyguard Gleb Karakulov to the Russian exile investigative center Dosje after his escape abroad.
Karakulov, who defected and flew to Istanbul during a business trip in Kazakhstan, describes Putin based on what he saw and heard himself. “He doesn’t use a mobile phone, I’ve never seen him with a mobile phone. Not once. He doesn’t even use the Internet. He only gets information from people in his immediate environment,” says the man who accompanied Putin and oversaw his security for almost fifteen years. But he said that if the head of the Kremlin is somewhere, he wants to be within range of Russian state television broadcasts.
Karakulov also describes the tight security measures around the Russian leader, although he says Putin is healthy for his age and certainly not suffering from any serious illness. “Before every event, before every meeting, we had to observe a two-week quarantine. Even if we only met him for fifteen or twenty minutes,” says Karakulov in the interview. According to him, personnel in Putin’s immediate environment must be tested for the coronavirus several times a day.
The TV footage proves him right. Most recently from the event at which Putin welcomed the new ambassadors in the Kremlin. He stood more than a hundred meters away from them and said goodbye saying that the meeting was ending because they had strict regulations. At meetings with foreign politicians or Russian ministers, Putin often sits on the opposite side of a long table. But he makes exceptions, for example he sat close to Chinese President Xi Jinping or the presidents of Central Asian countries at the summit in Kazakhstan, where Karakulov decided to flee.
According to the reports available to Western intelligence agencies, during the 2020-2021 coronavirus pandemic, Putin met face-to-face with only one person: businessman and childhood friend from St. Petersburg, Yuri Kovalchuk. He spent his time in his residences in Sochi and Lake Valdai.
Putin does not have any social media accounts and does not use a mobile phone or the Internet for fear of being tracked and accessing his records, the Wall Street Journal wrote recently, citing a person who worked for Putin in the past, but understandably did not want to be named .
The Wall Street Journal also described a meeting last year between several Russian businessmen and Putin at one of his mansions in Novo Ogariv, near Moscow. “Thirty people had to be quarantined for three days and undergo three tests for the coronavirus. And then they sat across from Putin at the end of a long table,” a Russian informant familiar with the situation described the meeting to the newspaper.
According to this source, Putin gets up at seven in the morning every day and receives reports from the Ministry of Defense and intelligence services on the progress of the war in Ukraine. However, there is a suspicion that these whistleblowers are edited so that the president does not get so-called angry.
Andrej Soldatov, a Russian investigative journalist in exile and an expert on the Russian secret services, told the newspaper Aktuálně.cz last year that the news for Putin is edited, which is why bad and illogical decisions are made in the Kremlin.
“Putin talks to only a few people. They include Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the head of the Security Council and his long-time friend Nikolai Patrushev, and one or two other people whom the president has known for a long time and intimately from the days when he lived and worked in St. Petersburg. I believe , that the number of people who knew about the war plan was very small,” Soldatov said.
In its investigative reporting using Russian sources, the Wall Street Journal cites the situation from the end of September last year as an example of Putin’s isolation. At that time, the Russian president ordered the commanders of the units in Lyman in the Donbass not to retreat at any cost. But the Russians were already almost completely encircled by the Ukrainians, and those who survived withdrew from the city on October 1.
Video: Rumors and speculation about Putin’s health and isolation
Speculation on Putin’s health and isolation | Video: Reuters, Associated Press
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