Nikolai Patrushev to Ramzan Kadyrov

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It’s been 5 months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine and started their relentless assault on their far-smaller neighbor. The Western press has targeted closely on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who masterminded the invasion over a few years and has overseen its execution.

However Putin isn’t engaged on his personal.

He’s surrounded by a cabal of equally ruthless lieutenants simply as desperate to deceive the West with bombast and rhetoric.

These henchmen – and occasional ladies — aren’t simply wily, they’re extraordinarily well-compensated because of their shut proximity to Putin’s kleptocratic machine. Lengthy-serving and devoted, the Russian chief owes this creepy crew a perverse debt of gratitude for serving to him obtain his horrifying targets.

Right here’s a have a look at the highest seven characters in Putin’s orbit of struggle.

Nikolai Patrushev
Nikolai Patrushev
REUTERS

The inheritor obvious

Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, is Putin’s closest advisor, long-time private pal, and the Kremlin hawk who may simply take over the reins of Mom Russia — at the very least briefly — if Putin have been to turn out to be incapacitated. Patrushev is very influential within the Kremlin paperwork and is without doubt one of the principal architects of the Putin doctrine — which seeks to return former Soviet-era states (like Ukraine) to Russian management.

Patrushev is Putin’s evil twin, with each twins, on this case, being evil. Their relationship dates again to 1975, after they labored collectively within the KGB. Like his boss, Patrushev — who’s served as a spy operative for 50 years — has probably licensed focused killings of quite a few Russian “enemies.” Amongst his victims are former FSB officer and vocal Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in Britain in 2006, together with Chechen separatist leaders hunted down and killed as a part of a counter-terrorism program throughout the late-Nineteen Nineties.

At 71, Patrushev, like Putin, is a dedicated athlete who commonly performs volleyball and swims almost three miles per week. He doesn’t abuse alcohol, which is unusual for Russian males, favoring the occasional glass of wine over onerous liquor. He’s a workaholic and by no means late for conferences. It’s probably Patrushev helped hatch the plan for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and Putin’s assault in opposition to the remainder of the Ukraine this previous February. Patrushev can also be a rabid anti-American propagandist who not too long ago accused Washington of operating a organic weapons program in Ukraine. Much more outlandish, he’s recommended that the US is planning to drop a nuke on Ukrainian territory after which blame Russia for it.

Dmitriy Peskov
Dmitriy Peskov
Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Kremlin through REUTERS

The speaking head

Dmitriy Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, epitomizes the Russian proverb “You may piss into his eyes and he’ll say it’s God’s dew.” This maxim describes people who’re so shameless of their capability to inform lies, that they continue to be unfazed even when instantly challenged to their face. Peskov has served as Putin’s spokesperson since 2008. His job, primarily, is to create an alternate actuality during which Russia’s geopolitical actions are perceived as benign — if not downright righteous — whereas overlaying up the atrocities dedicated by Putin and the Kremlin.

Peskov, 54, excels at this job, judging by the truth that most Russians appear to help Putin’s “particular operation” into Ukraine — launched, Putin has stated, to “de-Nazify and demilitarize” the nation. Peskov was even in a position to trick the Biden safety crew into believing that Russia would possibly truly not launch its armies in opposition to Ukraine, inflicting Washington to hesitate till Putin’s forces encircled and attacked the nation on February 24.

Like others in Putin’s world, Peskov has managed to turn out to be a multi-millionaire from repeating his boss’ lies. He owns a $10 million actual property empire, travels on non-public jets and yachts, drives luxurious automobiles and, in fact, sports activities designer watches. His third spouse and two grownup kids from a pair of earlier marriages are additionally “bathing in gold,” as one other Russian saying goes, and personal multimillion-dollar properties all around the world. Peskov’s 24-year-old daughter Elizaveta Peskova studied enterprise and advertising and marketing in Paris and held internships at Louis Vuitton and with the European Parliament. There are rumors that Peskov could also be divorcing his present spouse, a 47-year-old former Olympic ice-dancing champion Tatyana Navka. Peskov married Navka in 2015 after apparently charming her together with his “magnificence and perseverance” in addition to “buoyant” dancing fashion.

Maria Zakharova
Maria Zakharova
YouTube

The saucy spokeswoman

Maria Zakharova is the Russian Overseas Ministry spokeswoman and one of the crucial colourful personalities in Putin’s circle. At 46, she is the primary feminine spokesperson within the historical past of Russia’s Overseas Ministry and has held the job since 2015. Half warrior-half seductress, Zakharova is thought for her combative communication fashion and the quick-witted barbs that she likes to deploy in opposition to Western officers, typically laden with sexual innuendo. By day, Zakharova’s briefings are stuffed with Putin’s lies — similar to portraying Ukraine as being overrun by Nazis and in want of quick liberation by Russian forces. By night time, she floods social media with suggestive selfies sporting bright red lipstick and provocatively poses in strapless dresses. In early July, Zakharova posted an attractive video of herself fondling two strawberries along with her mouth and tongue to the tune of the patriotic Russian tune “Kalinka,” carried out by the Purple Military Choir.

However the principle targets of Putin’s propaganda minister are the Biden Administration, US democracy, and Western values normally. Final month, Zakharova posted on her Telegram channel a weird picture of two transgender Biden Administration officers, Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary within the Division of Well being and Human Providers, and Sam Brinton, deputy assistant secretary chargeable for nuclear points inside the Division of Vitality. Within the picture, which was taken on the French ambassador’s Bastille Day celebration, Rachel Levine sported a “masculine”-styled admiral’s uniform, whereas Sam Brinton wore a extra “female”-looking blue, floral patterned costume with a sweetheart neckline, blazer, and blue, strappy heels.  “Reply this query truthfully: are these the values you wish to impart in your kids? Or we could put up a battle for our personal?,” wrote Zakharova, mocking Western liberalism and democracy.

Margarita Simonyan
Margarita Simonyan
REUTERS

The Media-Maven

Margarita Simonyan, 42 is Putin’s Propaganda Queen. Formally, she is the Editor-in-Chief of RT, Russia’s global network of television channels, web sites, and social media accounts broadcasting to non-Russian talking audiences in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, German, and Russian. In actuality, Simonyan is not any journalist. RT is Putin’s pet challenge: a Russian state-funded and state-directed information outlet created with the first purpose of publishing pro-Kremlin content material to affect international, and particularly Western, audiences about Russia and Putin. Putin created RT in 2005 as Russia Today. However in late 2013 Putin issued an Executive Presidential order to “restructure” the network and call it “RT” — concealing RT’s affiliation with Russia.

in Russia, she graduated from highschool with a Gold Medal for high educational efficiency,  accomplished vocational coaching in broadcasting and later obtained a university degree in journalism.

Putin is on a first-name-basis with Simonyan and certain personally accredited her candidacy for this high-profile function, which she assumed at the age of 25 in 2005. He’s additionally quite pleasant along with her: In 2019, throughout a ceremony within the Kremlin, during which Simonyan was given a state award for her patriotic reporting, Putin used the Russian phrase “ty”— which is an indication of familiarity — quite than “vy,” which is a extra formal model of the English “you”. Simonyan additionally has a yellow cellphone on her desk with a direct secure line to the Kremlin.

RT content material ranges from “animated genitals,” a dancing vagina and penis — and their pals “laughing breast” and “overly-eager hand” — to Simonyan-issued threats of nuclear war if Russia is denied victory in Ukraine.

Arkady Rotenberg
Arkady Rotenberg
EPA

The hockey bro

Arkady Rotenberg, 70, a billionaire Russian businessman, has been Putin’s pal for the reason that Nineteen Sixties, when he and his brother, Boris, met a younger Putin of their hometown of St. Petersburg whereas attending a coaching middle for sambo — the Russian martial artwork and fight sport favored by the Soviet army. As chairman of the chief board of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, Rotenberg commonly performs hockey with Putin and was as soon as his judo sparring associate, a sport Putin says remodeled him from a younger hooligan right into a statesman. Awarded by Putin with billions of {dollars} in oil and fuel contracts, Rotenberg owns a $38 million yacht, a luxurious lodge in Rome, a big property in Surrey, England, and several other villas in Italy and France.

Vladimir Potanin
Vladimir Potanin
REUTERS

The uber-oligarch

Vladimir Potanin, 61 is one other Putin’s pal, hockey associate, and the richest man in Russia, reportedly price $25 billion. Potanin was one of many “Massive Seven” Russian oligarchs who helped reelect Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin to the Russian presidency in 1996. Yeltsin, who turned the primary Russian president after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, presided over one of many darkest, most tumultuous and chaotic intervals in Russian historical past. Whereas the West foolishly anticipated Russia to show right into a Jeffersonian democracy, Russian leaders schemed to defraud the nation’s main pure useful resource corporations. Potanin’s relationship with Putin dates again to 2000, when Yeltsin hand-picked Putin as Russia’s subsequent President, whereas Potanin was busy masterminding the “loans-for-shares” program that enriched oligarchs like himself. Because of this large fraud, yesterday’s communists changed into capitalists in a single day, and Russia turned a contemporary mafia state dominated by siloviki (intelligence operatives) with just about limitless energy and monetary sources at their disposals.

Sergei Pavlovich Roldugin
Sergei Pavlovich Roldugin
Getty Photographs

The tradition kapo

Sergei Pavlovich Roldugin, 70, is a childhood pal of the Russian president who launched Putin to his future, and now former, spouse Lyudmila and is the godfather of their eldest daughter, Maria. A graduate of the Leningrad State Conservatory, Roldugin is knowledgeable cellist who serves in numerous senior positions in St. Petersburg music and humanities organizations, together with the famed Mariinsky Theater and the St. Petersburg State Conservatory. However Roldugin’s function in Putin’s internal circle has nothing to do with mastering Tchaikovsky (although it does assist). Certainly, whereas most of Putin’s inner-circle come from the worlds of espionage, Rodulgin’s artsy background is the right cowl for safeguarding a portion of Putin’s private fortune — together with as much as $2 billion managed through Roldugin’s brother that have been uncovered by the Panama Papers. In his autobiography, Putin says he and Roldugin “met [in 1977] and have by no means parted. He is rather like a brother to me. Earlier than, once I had nowhere to go, I went to him and slept and ate with him.” 

Ramzan Kadyrov
Ramzan Kadyrov
REUTERS

The second-generation sycophant

Ramzan Kadyrov is the brutal chief of the Russian province of Chechnya whom Putin not too long ago promoted to lieutenant-general within the Russian army as a reward for his function within the Ukraine invasion. Like his father, Akhmad Kadyrov — who fought for Chechen independence however then later switched sides — the junior Kadyrov is a staunch Putin supporter. In 2015, he was implicated within the homicide of the distinguished Putin critic Boris Nemtsov who was gunned down on a Moscow bridge whereas he was making ready a report about Russia’s function within the Crimea battle. At present, Kadyrov is gearing as much as ship 4 Chechen battalions to Ukraine to assist replenish exhausted Russian forces. His fighters, often called Kadyrovtsy, are feared for his or her viciousness and have been on the hunt for Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, presumably to assassinate him. Kadyrov, 45, alongside The Wagner Group’s Dmitry Utkin, is certainly one of Putin’s two principal hitmen exterior of Russia, covertly killing off his boss’ enemies with out getting Putin’s palms soiled. The Chechen warlord stated in July that he’s standing prepared for Putin’s order to blow Western international locations to “smithereens.”

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