If Putin dies his replacement could be far more aggressive, expert claims

Rumours have been swirling for some time that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is suffering severe health problems which are rumoured to be Parkinson’s disease of some form of abdominal cancer.

Since it became clear that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was turning into an embarrassing failure, those rumours have been joined by speculation that Putin could be held solely to blame for the disaster and ousted by Kremlin bosses.

But, an expert on Russian politics has warned, the two most likely replacements for Putin could be even more hardline and aggressive than the former KGB operative currently running the country.

Putin, 69, has not yet named an official successor and in the short term Mikhail Mishustin, the Prime Minister, would automatically assume power if the leader died or became incapacitated.

But after that, Dr Sarah Whitmore told the Mirror, there would be moves within the Kremlin to select the “winner” of the next presidential election.

Dr Whitmore, an expert in Russian domestic politics at Oxford Brookes University, says that one of the most likely contenders would be security council security secretary Nikolai Patrushev – a former KGB counterintelligence officer.

Patrushev, 70, is believed to have been one of the leading architects of the Ukrainian war strategy and the man who convinced Putin that Kyiv was dominated by neo-Nazis.

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Another potential successor to Putin could be his loyal defence minister Sergei Shoigu. He has been a high profile figure in recent years, especially since the invasion of Ukraine.

Dr Whitmore said: "If Putin were to suddenly die from an illness then people would have to be told and there has to be a sort of succession organised.

"According to the constitution, the Prime Minister takes over and then an election needs to be organised within three months.

"It is very likely the regime around Putin would choose a suitable trustworthy successor to suit their interests.

"Someone we know like Shoigu, he's been touted as a potential successor and seen as a popular and acceptable face"

"Or it could be someone we don't know like how Putin came in," added Dr Whitmore, pointing out: "he was a nobody at the time.

"Who may even be more hardline. Where there seem to be expressions of discontent, it has tended to be critical that Putin isn't going sufficiently hard in Ukraine and that he has been too gentle.”

Or, with rumours of his failing health unconfirmed, it’s always possible that Putin time will carry on into his 80s.

He has already been in power for two decades and last year changed Russia ’s constitutional laws enabling him to run for a further two six-year terms in 2024 and 2030.

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