An increasingly paranoid Vladimir Putin reportedly fears being poisoned by his entourage and has taken to travelling in a specially-made armoured train because of concerns the Kremlin presidential plane could be shot out of the sky.
The war against Ukraine has increased his anxiety, says a former KGB colleague who came up through the ranks with the now Russian dictator.
Putin is concerned over a “meat grinder” struggle for power inside his circle, according to Yuri Shvets, 71, a contemporary who studied with him at the KGB Institute.
This mindset – rather than a fear of flu or new Covid strain – is behind his increasing self-isolation, limiting face to face meetings.
“It looks like he fears for his life,” he said. “Around him there is a struggle, a meat grinder…. And in this struggle, Putin can very easily end his existence. So he has isolated himself again,” Shvets told Ukrainian media.
Poisons have run rife under Putin as a key weapon against his enemies, he added.
“Poison is the weapon of complete villains. This is what has flourished under him [Putin].
“They couldn't keep it under unified control. And who now has this weapon? Even he does not know. This is a source of very great stress for him.”
Updating my prior on the health rumors from “weak CIA deza” to “he’s either on stimulants or not well”. https://t.co/qOl3ZFtbHs
— Alex Turnbull (@alexbhturnbull1) February 18, 2023
While most experts and Russian analysts have dismissed the notion that Putin could be assassinated, if it does happen, the former Russian agent believes poisoning would be a likely weapon.
“Quite likely he will be poisoned. This is the easiest way,” Shvets claimed.
While Shvets – once a KGB ‘resident’ spy in Washington who now has US citizenship – doubts the “grey mice” in his top circle are up to assassinating him, the fear stalks Putin, he argued.
More evidence of Putin’s paranoia is his decision to use an armoured train for travelling around Russia, especially between his various palaces, said another report by Dossier Centre, linked to exiled billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man.
"For the president of the aggressor country, it is indeed worth worrying about his safety," said journalist Ilya Rozhdestvensky.
“Several of Putin’s residences which he usually got to by air are located in an area where flights are significantly limited, due to combat activities.
“That is to say, if the president feels like visiting his palace near Gelendzhik [on the Black Sea], there is no guarantee that there will not be an attempt to shoot down his plane”.
In April last year the Ukrainians sank his flagship Moskva cruiser in the Black Sea, where he has several favourite residences. Putin has also used it to reach his luxury residence at Valdai, between Moscow and St Petersburg, it is claimed.
He is now using more frequently his specially constructed armoured train rather than his 'Flying Kremlin' presidential IL-96-300PU plane. He is reportedly concerned that his flight routes are too easily identifiable.
The train is camouflaged in grey and red to look like a Russian normal passenger train making it "visually almost indistinguishable" from them. Yet it boasts radio antennae for special communications fixed to the roof of certain carriages, covered by casings.
It has reinforced axles like heavy freight trains because of the weight of the armour on the carriages. It requires three engines at the front, and has one at the rear. On the side of the train is the logo of Grand Service Express, a company which Dossier alleges is linked to close Putin associate Yuri Kovalchuk.
Regular trains are halted to allow the Putin express to speed to its destinations.
He rarely admits to using this train in public, and has not been photographed on it since 2012. In fact, the current train is said to be upgraded and more secure.
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