Russian President Vladimir Putin prefers to travel in his country by armored train rather than presidential aircraft, according to a source close to the dictator’s inner circle.
Like many other authoritarian presidents, Putin has always believed he is at risk and under threat. However, in Putin’s case, his measures to protect himself from possible threats are pretty extreme.
Among Putin’s security measures, some border on being surreal. Others involve hundreds of people watching every move Russia’s undisputed leader makes. Let’s look at some of Putin’s craziest security measures.
Travel by armored train
Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s investigative journalism project, The Dossier Center tracks criminal activity within the Kremlin and recently found out that Putin has been travelling by armored train since mid-August 2021.
Who protects Putin?
As specified by the BBC, Putin uses the Russian Presidential Security Service as his surveillance network.
The Presidential Security Service is integrated into the Russian Federal Protective Service (FSO), derived from the former KGB. It is also responsible for the protection of other high-ranking Kremlin officials.
Putin also has the Rosgvardia, or Russian National Guard, considered (in a way) as the personal army of the president, which Putin himself created in 2016.
The director of Rosgvardia is General Viktor Zolotov, Putin’s former bodyguard, and there are about 400,000 troops under his direct control.
Four circles of protection
When it comes to protecting Putin, the security service is organized into four circles, according to the website Russia Beyond. The first is made up of hundreds of bodyguards. They are the closest to the Russian president and they are with him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This large number of soldiers is not only dedicated to the protection of the president but also to arms control, combating terrorism, organized crime, protecting public order and protecting important state facilities.
The second is made up of plainclothes agents who mix with the public and the citizens present wherever they go.
A third circle is responsible for surrounding the public present and preventing any suspicious person from exceeding the security zone.
The fourth and final circle comprises snipers that surround the immediate area close to Vladimir Putin on the roofs of neighboring buildings.
By land rather than by air
As security expert Mark Galeotti pointed out to the BBC, an additional security complication is that Vladimir Putin does not like to fly and insists on taking a massive caravan of motorcycles, black armored cars, and trucks with him when he travels.
Travel is completed for Putin. Mark Galeotti says that the airspace is blocked, traffic is stopped, and extreme caution is exercised for these trips.
Back to the Middle Ages
The matter takes on medieval overtones when we talk about the food that the Russian president eats.
The legend of the personal taster
According to Mark Galeotti, Putin has a personal food taster who tests everything the Russian leader will eat to prevent it from being poisoned.
Strict verification process for food
In addition, before serving any food to the Russian president, his bodyguards must first verify that there are no suspicious elements in the preparation, according to Stephan Hall, an expert on Russia, told the BBC.
A toast? Yes, but with my bottle
Putin doesn’t trust his allies and friend with common interests such as personal finances. Certainly, Putin doesn’t trust his military personnel and FSB. Preventive measures do not stop there because the Russian president brings his food and drink when he makes a trip. Even if there is a toast, Vladimir Putin pours himself a drink from his own bottle.
No smartphone at his residence or offices
Communications are limited in the close environment of Vladimir Putin and smartphones are prohibited in the Kremlin.
Internal line in the Kremlin
In an interview with the Russian news agency TASS, Vladimir Putin admitted this: only an official, internal line can be used to contact someone inside the Kremlin.
Did the CIA create the internet?
According to The Guardian, Putin distrusts the internet because he considers it “a CIA project”.
Don’t use Google?
Vladimir Putin has called on Russians on several occasions not to use Google for their searches, considering that it is a tool of the United States to monitor the interests of the Russian population. The reason here (perhaps) is not lacking, but monitoring is used for the commercial interests of the company that owns Google.
Why use the internet when there is paper?
Instead of the network of networks, Vladimir Putin uses the traditional method: paper. “He starts his day with three security briefings. One is what’s going on in the world, one is what’s going on in Russia, and the third is what’s going on inside the elite. For him, this is the most important information that will define his day,” Mark Galeotti points out in his statements to the BBC.
Personally, the situation of the Russian president is one of almost monastic isolation. If the pandemic had limited access to the president to a few people, the attack on Ukraine would have made it even more challenging to meet with Putin.
Indeed, Vladimir Putin’s health is treated as a matter of national security. Anyone who wants to see him must undergo quarantine, a medical exam and several PCRs. Tell that to Emmanuele Macron, President of France, who refused to follow these guidelines and angered the Russian leader.
Keep your distance
The famous photo of Macron at a table of unusual length was due to the Frenchman’s refusal to take tests before speaking with Putin. However, the use of very long tables to maintain an exaggerated safety distance became common since the pandemic broke out.
Away from your collaborators
Even in a meeting with such close associates as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin kept his distance. Some media have suggested that Covid 19 isolated Putin and placed him on the verge of paranoia.
Gone is the adventurous Putin
The Putin who currently shields his existence against external threats looks pretty different from the one who, at other times, portrayed himself as a seasoned adventurer, riding, hunting or fishing in Siberia. Things certainly have changed.
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