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Who will lead Russia if Putin dies? Media announces scenarios

Who will lead Russia if Putin dies? Media announces scenarios Russia's dictator, Vladimir Putin (Photo: Getty Images)

In the event of the death of the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, the head of government would automatically become the new leader of the Kremlin for a certain period. However, there are other potential "successors," according to The Independent.

Putin's current presidential term in the Russian Federation is set to expire next year. Still, due to radical changes in the country's constitution since 2020, he has been allowed to rule until 2036. Putin took control of the reins of power in Russia in 1999.

Rumors about Putin's illness and death

Just this week, the Kremlin refuted yet another round of rumors that the dictator had suffered a heart attack. Several months earlier in Moscow, other social media and press reports about serious health problems for Putin were also denied.

"Thyroid cancer, Parkinson's disease, leprosy or declining in the aftermath of a stroke - just a few of the many unproven ailments rumored to have afflicted the Russian leader in recent years.," the agency states.

At the same time, journalists note that against the backdrop of such rumors about Putin's health deterioration, the future of Russia after his possible death remains unclear.

Risk of overthrow

In addition to speculation about a potential change in Kremlin leadership due to illness or death, the issue of power succession in Russia was also raised against the backdrop of the armed rebellion by the leader of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, last summer, with his "march on Moscow."

Although the coup ended with agreements between the "Putin's cook" and the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, and ended in failure, the situation raised questions about the future leadership of Russia and "who is next in line to replace the authoritarian leader."

Putin's family

Unlike other dictators, Putin's family does not vie for his replacement, and little is known about their relationship with the Kremlin leader.

Putin's 30-year marriage to Lyudmila Shkrebneva, known for her privacy in her personal life, ended in divorce in 2013 amid rumors of Putin's extramarital affair with former gymnast Alina Kabaeva.

Although it is unknown how many children he has had since the divorce, he has two daughters from Shkrebneva. Neither 36-year-old Maria Vorontsova nor 35-year-old Katerina Tikhonova is involved in politics.

Mikhail Mishustin

In the event of Putin's death or sudden resignation, the Federation Council of the Russian Federation has 14 days to announce early presidential elections. The acting president during this period would be Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

The article mentions that some consider him an unlikely candidate for permanent appointment, given his lack of popularity among Putin's inner circle, whose supporters he is said to have.

According to the BBC, Mishustin faced the “unenviable task of rescuing the economy but has little say over." Sources close to the Kremlin claimed he was unaware of Putin's intentions regarding a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

As Dr. Mark Galeotti told journalists, according to the Russian constitution, Mishustin, "he takes over when the president is dead or incapacitated, he would be incumbent. He’s a classic technocrat choice. I could see that happening, but there are other candidates who would fill the same niche.

Dmitry Medvedev

He is known as one of Putin's closest associates and is considered one of his potential successors. Medvedev previously held the position of president from 2008 to 2012 before resigning according to pre-arranged agreements.

Medvedev earned a reputation as "Putin's bad cop" and a Russophobe, making increasingly bellicose threats related to nuclear weapons.

The former law professor served as prime minister from 2012 to 2020 before becoming the deputy head of the Security Council of Russia. However, over the years, it is believed that his subordinate role under Putin weakened his ability to consolidate power among the Russian elite.

Sergei Kiriyenko

Among other names capable of leading Russia, Sergei Kiriyenko is also mentioned. He has been serving as the first deputy head of the administration since 2016 and is known as a member of Putin's inner circle.

Given his involvement in issues related to the occupation of Ukrainian territories, he has daily access to the Russian dictator. He maintains good relations with all major players among the Russian "political elite."

However, Dr. Galeotti believes Kiriyenko is better suited to work as a "backroom" operator.

Sergei Shoigu

Due to the humiliating results for the Russian army in the war against Ukraine, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is no longer considered a likely candidate for Putin's "successor," according to the article. However, Russia once recognized this minister as the most popular politician after Putin.

"Before the invasion, I would have absolutely said Shoigu, but his reputation has now been tarnished with the invasion. He’s still got relatively high levels of public support and trust, and he is a phenomenal behind the scenes operator. The days where he could have been president may be over but as a kingmaker, he could still be really influential," said Dr. Galeotti.

Nikolai Patrushev

Russia's Security Council Secretary Patrushev has known Putin since working together in the KGB. He was the chief strategist during the invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and 2022.

According to journalists, the 71-year-old official is one of the few listened to by the Russian dictator. His son Dmitry is also rumored to be a potential successor to Putin due to his position as Minister of Agriculture.

Other "candidates"

Other suggestions for a possible new Kremlin leader in the event of Putin's death included Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, former bodyguard Alexei Dyumin, and head of the administration Dmitry Kozak.

"It’s going to have to be someone who could create a coalition, who is able to be acceptable to both the technocrats and the security elite. It will quite likely not one be one of the big beasts precisely because of the need to build a coalition," Dr. Galeotti commented.

He also believed that the Russian system will cope with the crisis "quite quickly and swiftly." The doctor believes that the next Russian "political elite" will seek to end the war against Ukraine and confrontations with the West.

"Putin will quite likely become the scapegoat for all that wrong," Dr. Galeotti added.

In January, the Chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov, stated in an interview with Western media that Russian dictator Putin is very ill. Still, he will see Ukraine's victory in the war with Russia before his death.

Additionally, Danish intelligence, in its investigation, gathered a considerable amount of information confirming Putin's illness. At the same time, it believes that the medications he took during cancer treatment influenced him at the time of the Russian dictator's invasion of Ukraine.