Reshuffle points to ‘serious instability’ at heart of Russian leadership – with ‘something deeper’ likely happening

This is not just a normal reshuffle but “serious instability right in the heart” of Russia’s regime, a former MI6 intelligence officer has said.

Speaking to Sky News, Christopher Steele said Nikolai Patrushev being removed from his role as secretary of the Russian Security Council is “astonishing”.

“It’s important to understand that he’s been one of Putin’s closest allies, former head of the FSB and so on for many years… and was rated by people to be probably the second most powerful man in Russia after Putin himself.¬†

“I think what this indicates is not just a reshuffle along normal governmental lines. It’s really quite serious instability right in the heart of this regime,” he said.

Mr Steele says it has been “clear” to Russia watchers for some time that Mr Patrushev was lining up his son Dmitri, the current agriculture minister, to be Mr Putin’s successor.

“I think that this is, as I say, a very significant move by Putin,” he added.

‘Something much deeper’ going on

Asked why Mr Putin would remove Mr Shoigu as defence minister at a time when Russia appears to have the upper hand in the war, Mr Steele says it could point to something “much deeper” happening.

“It’s hardly ideal from a military point of view to replace your defence minister right at the time when you’re launching a new offensive,” he explained.

“This underlines to me that there is something much deeper going on here.”

Mr Steele also characterised Mr Shoigu’s switch to the Security Council as a “demotion” – but reiterated that Mr Patrushev, a member of the Russian president’s inner circle, being moved to an unknown position was “extraordinary”.

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