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Takeaways from AP’s report on elite Russian defector

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LONDON — In October, an officer in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s elite private safety service defected whereas on a enterprise journey in Kazakhstan.

Now a needed man in Russia, Gleb Karakulov spoke out for the primary time in a collection of interviews with the File Middle, an investigative group in London funded by Russian opposition determine Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The AP took steps to evaluate and confirm the fabric.

“Our president has turn out to be a battle prison,” mentioned the 35-year-old engineer. “It’s time to finish this battle and cease being silent.”

Karakulov is considered one of few Russians to flee and go public who’ve rank, in addition to information of intimate particulars of Putin’s life. Karakulov was a captain in Russia’s secretive Federal Protecting Service. or FSO, tasked with establishing safe communications for the Russian president and prime minister.

Right here’s what he needed to say about Putin and the battle in Ukraine.

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PUTIN DOESN’T USE A MOBILE PHONE OR THE INTERNET

In 13 years of service, Karakulov mentioned, he by no means noticed Putin use a cell phone. When the prime minister travels, he requires an digital workplace, with safe web entry. Putin doesn’t. He and others additionally say Putin insisted on strict anti-COVID-19 measures lengthy after most different world leaders, together with necessary two-week quarantines for workers and COVID checks by Kremlin docs.

“Our president is minimize off from the world, he lives in an informational vacuum,” Karakulov mentioned. “He’s pathologically afraid for his life. He has surrounded himself with an impenetrable barrier of quarantine and an absence of any info from the web.”

PUTIN APPEARS TO BE IN BETTER SHAPE THAN MANY PEOPLE HIS AGE

Karakulov mentioned he has taken greater than 180 journeys with the Russian president, and opposite to widespread hypothesis, Putin seems to be in good well being. Putin has solely canceled a couple of journeys as a result of sickness and has annual medical checkups, he mentioned. It was Karakulov’s job to arrange safe communications on the hospital when Putin checked in.

PUTIN’S PARANOIA APPEARS TO HAVE DEEPENED SINCE UKRAINE INVASION

Putin started touring by particular armored practice recurrently within the build-up to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, he mentioned. Putin’s practice seems to be like every other, painted grey with a purple stripe to mix in with different railway carriages in Russia. Putin didn’t like the truth that airplanes will be tracked, preferring the stealth of a nondescript practice automobile, Karakulov mentioned.

“I perceive that he’s merely afraid,” he mentioned.

Putin has arrange equivalent workplaces in a number of areas, with matching particulars all the way down to the desk and wall hangings, and official reviews generally say he’s one place when he’s really in one other, in keeping with Karakulov and prior reporting by a Russian media outlet.

In October, Putin ordered a bunker on the Russian embassy in Kazakhstan outfitted with a safe communications line — the primary time Karakulov had ever fielded such a request.

“I can perceive why he’s so remoted and why he should be very cautious about any exterior contacts. It’s comprehensible,” mentioned Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace. “Half of the world needs him {dead}.”

PUBLIC SUPPORT IN RUSSIA FOR WAR IN UKRAINE

The uncommon defection of a Russian insider raises questions on how deep public help for the battle in Ukraine really runs in Russia.

Karakulov wasn’t the one one from the FSO who needed out. An engineer at a regional FSO heart in Siberia tried to flee to Kazakhstan in September, shortly after Russia’s draft took impact. However authorities there despatched him again to Russia, the place he was sentenced to six 1/2 years in a penal colony.

Boris Bondarev, a profession diplomat in Geneva who give up in Might and denounced the battle, mentioned there are many Russians who quietly oppose the battle however don’t dare communicate out, for worry of dropping their livelihoods. A number of Overseas Ministry colleagues give up after he did however didn’t go public, he mentioned. He added that, like him, they’re having hassle discovering work.

Bondarev is now dwelling as a political refugee on a authorities allowance in Switzerland, with safety constraints he’d quite depart “intentionally ambiguous.” However he doesn’t have regrets.

“You have to do what your what your conscience tells you to do,” he mentioned.

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Related Press reporters Jamey Keaten in Geneva, Aamer Madhani in Washington and Joanna Kozlowska in London contributed to this report.



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