Russian President Vladimir Putin is paranoid and obsessed with his own personal safety, a Russian intelligence officer who fled the country over the war in Ukraine has said.
Gleb Karakulov, a captain with Russia’s Federal Guard Service (FSO), which is responsible for Putin’s security, has come out to reveal things about Putin after fleeing the country.
He escaped to Turkey from Kazakhstan while he was accompanying Putin during a visit to the former Soviet state in October. His duties included providing encrypted communications for Putin.
He is also asking former colleagues of his to turn on the Kremlin.
Karakulov depicted an isolated, out-of-touch leader living in an information vacuum in his heavily guarded residences, which he described as “bunkers”.
“[Putin] has shut himself off from the world,” Karakulov, 35, told the Dossier Center, a Russian investigative journalism project which was founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch who is now one of Putin’s biggest critics.
“His take on reality has become distorted.”
Karakulov, is the highest-ranking member of Russia’s special services to have defected since the start of the war. He revealed that Putin had set up a secure line in a bomb shelter in the Russian embassy in Astana, the Kazakh capital, for his visit to the country last year.
“It is a kind of paranoia,” he said. “He is pathologically afraid for his life.”
He also confirmed that Putin has been secretly working from identical offices in several residences across Russia as a security measure. In some cases, he said, state television showed Putin holding meetings at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence near Moscow when he knew for a fact that he was still in Sochi, the Black Sea resort city.
“When Putin was in Sochi, [FSO officers] would deliberately pretend that he was leaving. They would bring a plane, and a motorcade would set off. While in actual fact, he would stay in Sochi,” Karakulov, who joined the FSO in 2009, said. “This is a ruse to confuse foreign intelligence, in the first place, and secondly, to prevent any attempts on his life.”
He says the Kremlin is also still implementing strict measures to try and protect Putin from coronavirus.
“We have to observe a strict quarantine for two weeks before any event, even those lasting 15 to 20 minutes,” he said. “Everyone is a little perplexed as to why this is still going on. I know that all of the president’s aides take PCR tests several times a day.”
Putin has been visited at least 35 times by a cancer specialist in four years, the Proekt opposition website reported last year.
It reported that Putin takes his baths in blood from the antlers of young reindeer, a traditional remedy in Russia’s Altai region. Putin has also been seen walking with an apparent limp on a number of occasions but, Karakulov said there were no indications that the Russian leader was terminally ill.
“He is in better health than many other people his age,” he said. Only a couple of business trips had been cancelled over Putin’s health in more than a decade, he said.
He adds that Putin is also a keen consumer of his own propaganda.
“The president insists on having Russian television in every venue he stays in,” Karakulov said. “He doesn’t use the internet or a mobile phone. He only receives information from his closest circle.”
He also revealed that Putin refers to his two adult daughters — Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova — as “these women”. The Kremlin has never publicly acknowledged that they are related to Putin.
Karakulov, who fled with his wife and young daughter, said he had decided to leave Russia because he could no longer serve Putin, whom he described as a “war criminal”.
He urged his former colleagues in the Russian special services to do everything in their power to stop the “genocide” of the Ukrainian people. “You have information that is not broadcast on television. I have only seen a tiny part of it. Come forward, support me [with more evidence]. You will help our citizens to learn the truth,” he said.
In a message to Russian citizens, Karakulov said: “[Putin] only values his own life and the lives of his family and friends. The lives of your family and friends are of no interest to him.”
Karakulov, who has been charged by Russia with desertion, is concerned that he could be targeted by Kremlin agents.
“They are not running after me with novichok yet,” he said. “I’m worried, but what’s the point of such worries?”