Since the start of the Ukraine war, the state of health of Russian President Vladimir Putin (69) has been hotly debated. Whether it’s his bloated face, his convulsive grip on the table, or claims of a heavy operation by Putin after Victory Day, one rumor follows the next.
With the wild speculation, of course, one big question also arises: What happens if Putin is overthrown or even dies? Who would move up as Kremlin rulers? As “Focus” reports, Putin’s successor could trigger a kind of “palace massacre”. According to the German security expert Marina Henke, any successor would have a difficult time.
Whoever moves up has to fight
According to security expert Henke, there is officially no clear successor. “The whole system is solely geared towards Putin.” And whoever moves up has to fight for their position. “It doesn’t matter who comes to power after Putin, most likely he doesn’t have enough support in the various security agencies, in the military and among the oligarchs,” Marina Henke told the newspaper.
If someone from Putin’s inner circle were chosen as heir to the throne, power struggles would surely ensue. “Then there would be a kind of palace massacre.”
Formally, Putin would have a short-term successor. According to the Russian constitution, if Putin died, the prime minister would take over the government. A new president would have to be appointed within three months. In the present case, Mikhail Mishustin (56) would follow – a man whose name is not well known, at least in the West.
Mishustin is an old civil servant. Prior to his appointment as Prime Minister in 2020, he headed the Russian Tax Administration for ten years. Despite many years of Kremlin experience, he is considered one of Putin’s puppets, who were only chosen to secure his own power. But who would actually have what it takes to become the new Kremlin ruler? “Focus” presents five possible candidates.
Was the failed Blitz-War fatal for Shoigu?
Sergei Sobyanin (63), longtime mayor of the Russian capital Moscow, could move up. The lawyer also holds the office of one of the Vice Prime Ministers of Russia. Gerhard Mangott (55), Austrian professor of international relations, doubts his advancement. It is questionable whether Sobyanin will find much support outside of Moscow. “Prosperity-spoiled Moscow is hated in many parts of the country.”
The Russian defense minister and army general is also very popular Sergei Shoigu (66). Shoigu is considered a close confidant of Putin – photos show the two of them on vacation together. After conquering the Crimean island in 2014, expectations of Shoigu were high. He should give Russia a quick win. But Putin’s dream of a Blitz-War failed miserably – and could therefore have destroyed Shoigu’s chances for the presidency.
Another hot candidate is ex-secret service agent Alexey Dyumin (49). The governor is said not only to have once saved Putin from a bear, but was also given the title “Hero of Russia” by the ruler himself. This honor was due to him in his role as head of a secret special force that, among other things, implemented the annexation of Crimea.
Putin whisperer has a good chance
Valery Gerasimov (66), Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, also has potential to succeed Putin. As general of generals, he is considered not only to be Putin’s top man in the army, but also a key figure in the 2014 annexation of Crimea, Russian military strategy in Syria and support for the pro-Russian rebels in Donbass. Rumor has it, however, that Gerasimov has messed things up with Putin because of the faltering advances – this could reduce his chances of getting the highest post in the Kremlin.
According to speculation, even the hardliners Nikolai Patrushev (70) has what it takes to replace Putin. Patrushev is currently secretary of the Security Council – before that he headed the Russian secret service FSB for years. One of many similarities with Kremlin boss Putin. He lives up to his reputation as a Putin supporter and even as a whisperer because of his hatred of the West, among other things. So Putin’s hostile attitude towards the West is no accident.
Who will one day take Putin’s place remains to be seen. Political scientist Mangott dares to doubt whether his fall will have positive consequences for the West. He thinks it is unlikely that Putin’s successor will want to open up to the West. “While Putin’s resignation would remove an aggressive, authoritarian and distrustful president, we can by no means be certain that a compatible successor will take power.” (dzc)