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Inside terrifying regime of ‘Putin’s replacement’ who ‘poisoned his own KGB spies and celebrated Stalin’s mass purges’


FROM allegedly having a hand in the poisoning of his own spies to celebrating Stalin’s mass purges, Vladimir Putin’s potential replacement could be even more terrifying.

Members of Putin’s inner circle are said to be plotting to oust the brutal dictator and install 70-year-old spymaster Alexander Bortnikov in his place.


Russian FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov has been tipped to replace Vladimir PutinCredit: Getty – Contributor
Vladimir Putin and Alexander Bortnikov (right)


Vladimir Putin and Alexander Bortnikov (right)Credit: Reuters
Bortnikov is a former KGB officer and currently the head of Russia's FSB


Bortnikov is a former KGB officer and currently the head of Russia’s FSBCredit: FSB website / east2west news

The Ukrainian intelligence service claims to have uncovered a plot from a small band of Putin’s closest aides to dethrone the president.

The powerful insiders are said to be dismayed at the ramifications of the war and the sanctions imposed on the Russian economy.

And the plotters are reportedly considering all options to wipe out Putin – including poisoning him or faking an accident.

If Putin is successfully toppled, his former sidekick Bortnikov, who has been sanctioned by the US, is reportedly in pole position to replace him.

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Bortnikov is the current director of Russia’s FSB – making him one of the most powerful people in Russia and as an influential member of Putin’s inner circle.

Like Putin, he is a former officer of the KGB and first met Putin while the pair were stationed together in Leningrad – now Saint Petersburg – in the 1970s.

Since stepping into the might role in 2008, the terrifying spymaster is said to have turned the FSB into the “punishing sword” of Putin’s regime.

The organisation is both the brain and the heart of Putin’s government and behaves like a “state within the state”, according to the Dossier Center.

Not long after Putin was appointed acting president, Bortnikov was first made head of Russia’s Economic Security Service, wielding huge power and leverage.

He is also one of a small handful of people in Russia to earn the rank of Army General.

And in 2006, it was claimed that Bortnikov was involved in the operation to assassinate Alexander Litvinenko.

Former KGB spy Litvinenko had defected to the UK, where he worked to expose the corrupt practices of the Kremlin before he was poisoned with polonium.

Bortnikov has also been criticised for being too pro-Stalin.

He came under fire in 2017 from more than 30 academics who claimed that he was legitimising the mass purges carried out under Joseph Stalin known as the Great Terror.

At the time, he said archives show that “a significant part” of the criminal cases of those killed “had an objective side to them”.

He said he did not want to “whitewash anyone” but pointed to “links of coup plotters to foreign security agencies”.

Ukrainian intelligence said Putin’s inner circle have picked the spymaster as they feel he could restore economic ties with the West.


“Their goal is to remove Putin from power as soon as possible and restore economic ties with the West, destroyed due to the war in Ukraine,” the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine said.

“It is known that Bortnikov and some other influential representatives of the Russian elite are considering various options to remove Putin from power.

“In particular, poisoning, sudden disease, or any other ‘coincidence’ is not excluded.”

It’s thought the relationship between Putin and Bortnikov has become strained – with the spymaster blamed for allowing his military commanders to be overwhelmed by the fierce Ukrainian defence.

Russian security council deputy head Dmitry Medvedev has already sacked FSB deputy Vyacheslav Ushakov over bungles in intelligence that led to the invasion.

According to the Mirror, one Ukrainian intelligence source recently said: “It is noteworthy that Bortnikov has recently been disgraced by the Russian dictator.

“The official reason for the disgrace of the FSB leader – fatal miscalculations in the war against Ukraine.

“Bortnikov and his department were responsible for analysing the mood of Ukraine and the ability of the Ukrainian army.”

It’s not the first time members of Putin’s closest team have been tipped to challenge the Russian president’s regime.

According to Steven L. Hall, a former Russian CIA intelligence lead, the military elite pose a “real threat” to the President.

They know how to operate under Putin’s radar, because they are the ones in charge of the radar itself

Steven L. HallFormer Russian CIA intelligence lead

“Men like Patrushev and Bortnikov not only possess hard power, but they know how to use it and are inclined to do so,” he told The Washington Post.

“The siloviki are willing to use this deadly mixture of hard power and secrecy when a serious threat to the Russian kleptocratic system emerges.”

Russian siloviki translates to “people of force” or “strong men” – the term given to former military personnel who are now in political positions. 

Mr Hall added: “They have weapons and the personnel to threaten Putin.

“They know how to operate under Putin’s radar, because they are the ones in charge of the radar itself.

“And while it is reasonable to assume Putin has some means to monitor the siloviki, he will not be able to follow their actions constantly and with great precision, given all the other issues on his plate.”

Russia’s almost month-old assault on Ukraine has stalled along many fronts, failing to seize any major city or topple the government.

But Ukraine’s military has warned of more indiscriminate Russian shelling of critical infrastructure.

Russian artillery continues to pound the eastern cities of Kharkhiv, Sumy and Chernihiv, and in the capital Kyiv, shells blasted a shopping centre on Sunday evening, killing at least eight people.

The southern port city of Mariupol has become a focal point of Russia’s horror assault and is largely in ruins with bodies in the streets.

Russian forces are expected to continue to attack critical infrastructure with “high-precision weapons and indiscriminate munitions”, Ukraine’s armed forces said in a statement.

And Joe Biden said Russia’s false accusations that Ukraine had biological and chemical weapons showed that Putin’s “back was against the wall” and he was considering using such weapons.

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“Now he’s talking about new false flags he’s setting up including, asserting that we in America have biological as well as chemical weapons in Europe, simply not true,” the US president said.

“They are also suggesting that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. That’s a clear sign he’s considering using both of those.”

Putin with former spymaster Bortnikov (second right)


Putin with former spymaster Bortnikov (second right)Credit: EPA
Alexander Bortnikov addresses the Russian National Security council


Alexander Bortnikov addresses the Russian National Security councilCredit: Eyevine


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