Every step the Russian president takes is closely watched by hundreds of bodyguards who accompany him 24 hours a day.
His food is prepared stealthily and everything he drinks must be previously checked by his closest advisers.
And it is that the former KGB officer — the Soviet security service — is well aware of the threats around it, especially in times of war.
Putin is leading his country’s invasion of Ukraine and this poses some additional security risks.
But who is really in charge of protecting it? And what are the some of the measures that are taken to keep it safe? Here we tell you what is known about it.
Extensive security team
Among the multiple security services currently operating in Russia, there is one that is especially dedicated to protecting the president and his family: the Russian Presidential Security Service.
This squad depends on the Federal Protection Service of Russia (FSO), which has its origins in the former KGB, and which also protects other high-ranking Russian officials, including the Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin.
From there come the men dressed in black with earphones in their ears that shade the president day and night.
According to Russia Beyond, a Russian government-owned outlet, when these agents accompany you on activities abroad, they organize themselves into four circles.
The closest circle is made up of his personal bodyguards.
The second circle is made up of guards who go unnoticed in the public. The third, surrounds the perimeter of the crowd, preventing suspicious people from entering.
And the fourth and last, are snipers located on the roofs of surrounding buildings.
These agents also accompany him when Putin moves from one place to another.
“Putin doesn’t like helicopters; he usually travels with a massive caravan, with motorcyclists, lots of big black cars, trucks, etc. For this section, any drone that may be in the airspace is blocked and traffic is stopped, ”he explains to BBC Mundo Mark Galeotti, Russian security expert and director of Mayak Intelligence, a consulting firm dedicated to analyzing security issues in this country.
The Russian Presidential Security Service is supported by the “Russian National Guard”or rosgvardiawhich was formed by Putin himself only six years ago and that some have described as a kind of “personal army” of the president.
It is independent of the Russian Armed Forces and, although its official mission is to secure the borders, fight terrorism and protect public order, among others, in practice one of its most important tasks is to protect Putin from possible threats.
“Everyone knows that they are largely Putin’s personal bodyguards,” he tells BBC Mundo Stephen Hall, academic expert on Russia from the University of Bath, UK.
“And the president is very protected by them and by the rest of the security services,” he adds.
Currently, who leads the National Guard is Victor Zolotov, a former Putin bodyguard. He is a loyal ally to the president and in recent years has increased by around 400,000 the troops that are part of this security force.
“It’s a huge number, the security units for presidents like the United States are not even close to that figure,” says Hall.
What measures are taken to protect it?
Although it is difficult to know to what extent the measures that seek to protect Putin go, the Kremlin itself and Russian security experts have shed some light on the matter.
One of the issues that is treated with more caution is the food.
According to Mark Galeotti, fearing poisoning, Putin has a personal taster that checks everything that the president is going to eat.
“It’s part of a style that closer to a medieval monarch than a modern president”, he tells BBC Mundo.
Also, when you travel outside of Russia, the President’s team takes care of everything you consume.
“They take all the food and drink that he is going to consume. So, for example, if there is an official champagne toast, he drinks from the bottle that his team brings him, not from the rest, ”explains Galeotti.
Stephen Hall, meanwhile, claims his personal bodyguards are closely watching how they cook to avoid any risk.
Another measure that seeks to protect it is the blocking of smart phones inside the Kremlin.
The Russian president himself has confirmed that he does not use these devices.
In 2020, in an interview with the Russian state news agency TASS, he admitted as much, also pointing out that if he wanted to connect with someone, there was an official line to do so.
His advisers have also admitted as much. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, He has repeatedly said that Putin does not use mobile phones because “he does not have much time.”
But the truth is that among the reasons that explain Putin’s reluctance to use this technology is that He deeply distrusts the Internet.
In the past, in fact, he has indicated that the Internet is a “CIA project” – the US intelligence agency – and has called on the Russians not to carry out Google searches because he considers that the Americans are monitoring all the information.
“Putin hardly uses the Internet, it is well known that he does not like phones. And well, let’s be honest, from a security point of view, Putin is absolutely right. Smartphones are not very secure,” says Galeotti.
Given this, the academic affirms that Putin is informed through paper files provided by your advisers.
“You start your day with three safety 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,” he says.
“For him, this is the most important information and the one that will define your day”.
“I remember talking to diplomats and foreign ministry officials who told me they were frustrated that if they have information that conflicts with their intelligence services, Putin will tend to assume that his spies are right and the diplomats are wrong. ”, he adds.
isolation and pandemic
Currently, access to Vladimir Putin is extremely limited.
The few leaders who meet with him must do so respecting several meters of distance. Remembered is the appointment with his counterpart from France, Emmanuel Macronwho must have sat at the other end of a long table.
Some of these measures are inherited from the coronavirus pandemic which ended up isolating him even more.
According to the BBC’s Russian service, among the measures that have been implemented during this period are: a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone who wants to watch it; rigorous medical control regimen, which includes periodic PCR tests, for all those around him; and the almost total reduction in their attendance at public events.
On March 15, the Russian government’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed that all anti-covid measures related to Putin’s security remain intacts until “experts” “deem it appropriate”.
And it is that in Russia your personal health is seen as a matter of national security.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today program, General James Clapper – who oversaw the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and served as one of the main advisers to President Barack Obama – confirmed that Putin has been isolated.
“Putin has been largely isolated, particularly in the last couple of years with the pandemic, and compounding that is the fact that he has very few people who actually have access to him, which makes it very difficult to gather intelligence on the ground. that you have faith and trust,” he said.
A similar vision has Galeotti. “Putin lives very isolated. The circle of people around him has drastically decreased”, he indicates.
“He no longer travels the country and his appearance at public events is quite unusual. Security guards are among the few people Putin has a personal relationship with,” he notes.
According to Galeotti, this explains, in part, why many of them have subsequently been appointed to high positions (as is the case with Victor Zolotovin the National Guard).
Some intelligence analysts claim that the extreme security measures surrounding Putin are partly explained by genuinely Russian “paranoia.”
Others say that the president, with his experience in the KGB, knows better than anyone how important it is to protect his own security.
Be that as it may, everything indicates that its protection and isolation is only increasing. And that, as Galeotti says, things are done in the Kremlin “as Putin wants them to be done”. (I)