Russian President Vladimir Putin and his friends are “making preparations to flee Russia” should his army be defeated in Ukraine, according to a Telegram channel that claims to come from inside the Kremlin, a media report said.
With his Donbas offensive stalling, Ukriane preparing to re-capture Kherson and his economy crumbling, the Russian leader is “aware of the possibility of a sharp change of mood in the country”, the Daily Mail reported.
Last week, the General SVR channel reported that the 69-year-old had suffered from “severe nausea” overnight, with doctors at his bedside for around three hours.
Following on from that report, they claim that “Putin himself and his entourage are preparing plans for evacuation from Russia.”
It is thought that any plane carrying Putin and his family out of Russia would head to Syria, the nearest friendly state and whose leader, Bashar al-Assad, Putin bailed out by intervening in the Syrian civil war in 2015.
Any flight from Russia to Syria, however, would have to fly through the airspace of Turkey, a NATO member.
Were Turkey’s strongman leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to refuse permission to the plane carrying Putin and his family to enter his airspace, it would effectively scupper the Russian leader’s “quickest” and perhaps “only” getaway route, the media outlet reported.
Erdogan and Putin have a complex relationship, having been friends and enemies at various times over the past decade as each leader tries to navigate their country through a challenging geopolitical neighbourhood.
Iran is another regional power – and Western foe – that would be interested in Putin’s fate.
“In principle, it is beneficial for Iran and Turkey to keep the Russian president in exile in reserve, using him, depending on the situation, as a lever or as a bargaining chip,” the channel was quoted as saying.
Although Turkey is a member of the Western military alliance, under Erdogan’s leadership the country has “cut its own diplomatic path in international relations”.
Earlier this month Putin met with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in Tehran, ostensibly to discuss Syria.
It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that Erdogan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi discussed in private the possibility of Putin requiring asylum from a coup or revolution at home, the report concludes.