KEY POINTS

  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin will likely become the Kremlin's acting president should Putin die
  • The Kremlin may see an intense struggle for power should Putin pass away without naming a successor
  • The 'siloviki' would likely take over the Kremlin following Putin's death

In recent months, there have been rumors about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s failing health. But while nothing has been confirmed, some are questioning the events that would happen should he pass away. 

Putin has been in office since 2012. He recently signed a law that would allow him to run for president two more times in his lifetime, which means he could stay in office until 2036. While the bill officially limits Russian citizens to two presidential terms, it does not count terms that were served prior to the enactment of the law. 

Russia’s constitution does not specify what process to take should the president pass away while in office. However, should Putin suddenly die from an illness, it is very likely that the prime minister would become the acting president. Currently, Mikhail Vladimirovich Mishustin is serving as the Kremlin’s prime minister. 

Despite taking over the presidential seat, the acting president would have limited powers: they cannot dissolve the State Duma, which is responsible for adopting federal constitutional and federal laws. The acting president would also be unable to call for a referendum or propose constitutional revisions. 

However, Mishutin was not chosen by Putin, which makes it unlikely for him to win a subsequent presidential election, according to an opinion piece by Tatiana Stanovaya in The Moscow Times.

Should Putin die without naming a successor, the Kremlin would see an intense struggle for power and influence between large corporations, the country’s security services, the leadership of United Russia and Putin’s closest allies. 

In this scenario, Stanovaya said the “siloviki,” or someone who works for the country’s police, KGB or FSB, would likely take over. Stanovaya also added that a regime under the siloviki would be “more violent, more hawkish, more pressive and more radically intransigent.” 

The idea of the “siloviki” taking over the Kremlin aligns with a claim made on the Telegram channel “General SVR” wherein it was said that Nikolai Patrushev, head of the country’s Security Council, will temporarily be in power as Putin undergoes an operation. Patrushev, who previously served as an intelligence agent with the Russian FSB, was said to be more insidious than Putin. The International Business Times could not verify the claim. 

Putin, who turns 70 in October, is rumored to be suffering from serious illnesses, including cancer and Parkinson's disease. The Kremlin has denied the claims. 

The pigeon flies over the mural of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Belgrade The pigeon flies over the mural of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has been vandalised with red spray paint, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Belgrade, Serbia, June 20, 2022. Photo: Reuters / ZORANA JEVTIC