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London, April 5 – A senior Russian security officer who defected last year has given “rare insight into the paranoid lifestyle” of President Vladimir Putin, detailing a “secret train network, identical offices in different cities, a strict personal quarantine and escalating security protocols”, a media outlet reported.
Gleb Karakulov, who served as a captain in the Federal Protection Service (FSO), a powerful body tasked with protecting Russia’s highest-ranking officials, said that the measures were “designed to mask the whereabouts of the Russian President, whom he described as “pathologically afraid for his life”, The Guardian reported.
The 36-year-old said the train was used because it “cannot be tracked on any information resource. It’s done for stealth purposes”, the media outlet reported.
The Russian investigative outlet Proekt reported previously on the existence of the train and of a secret railway network including parallel lines and stations near Putin’s residences in the Valdai national park in Novo-Ogaryovo, and near his Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Karakulov was a member of the “field team” of the Presidential Communications Directorate that encrypts the messages of top Russian officials and estimated he had travelled on more than 180 trips with top officials. He appears to be the highest-ranking intelligence official to defect since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the report said.
Karakulov described a virtual state within a state that includes firefighters, food testers and other engineers who travel with Putin on his trips abroad, providing a rare first-hand insight into the levels of paranoia and sheltered lifestyle of the Russian president, it added.
Karakulov also described “setting up secret communications for Putin on planes, helicopters, lavish yachts and even in a bomb shelter at the Russian embassy in Kazakhstan during an October 2022 visit when Karakulov ultimately fled to Turkey and from there to an undisclosed country in the west”.
According to Karakulov, Putin “relies heavily for information on reports provided by his security services”.
“Putin did not use a mobile phone or the internet, and did not even bring an internet specialist with him on foreign trips. “He only receives information from his closest circle, which means that he lives in an information vacuum,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian.