Gleb Karakulov, a member of the Federal Guard Service (FSO) in charge of communications for top government officials, fled the country with his family in October 2022.
Captain Karakulov, 35, is described as the highest-ranking member of the security services who left the country after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and condemned the war. He is wanted in the Russian Federation in a criminal case of desertion (part 3 of Article 338 of the Russian Criminal Code). It was also disclosed that it was he who reported that in 2021 Putin started to move more actively on an armored train on the secret railway network.
In an interview, Karakulov revealed that he was due to retire in less than two years. He had planned to complete his service, close his mortgage and leave the FSO, but because of the outbreak of war, which he describes as “criminal”, he had to do so earlier and illegally. The officer was on sick leave for three months after the invasion and during his first tour of duty after the break in August he “found himself in the thick of savoring everything that happens in war”.
“I don’t even know how to convey how vile and unpleasant it was, [I experienced] some kind of creepy disgust. I was planning to just quit, to think of some reason. Next thing you know, it’s September 21, the mobilization. I realize that even if I resign, I become a reserve officer. And a direct flight straight to the front after discharge”
While on a service trip to Astana for the Russia-Central Asia summit in October 2022, Karakulov flew secretly to Istanbul with his wife and daughter [they flew to Kazakhstan separately].
“Putin doesn’t use the internet or his mobile phone”
Karakulov has worked for the FSO since 2009 as an engineer in the presidential communications department, providing encrypted communications for the Russian president and prime minister, and has been on almost 200 service trips. According to him, Putin does not use the Internet or a mobile phone. Karakulov confirmed that the head of state is brought “folders” – secret reports of the special services.
“FSO has units that are responsible for the information-technical component – closed videoconferencing, Internet access, provision of a workplace. The only thing Putin has is a little bit different – he does not use the Internet. But there is such a unit because he uses videoconferencing.
He does not use mobile phones. In all my years of service, I have never seen him using a mobile phone. If we fly with the Prime Minister on business trips, there is another person with us who deals with the Internet – an electronic office, a laptop, and access to the net. With Putin, this employee is not needed. All the information he receives is only from people who are directly close to him. He lives in a kind of information vacuum”.
Nikolai Patrushev, security officer and intelligence officer who has served as the secretary of the Security Council of Russia since 2008.
He also revealed that Putin has been in self-imposed isolation since 2020. That said, his health status is “better than many other people his age”: “We are seriously quarantined for a fortnight before any event, even if it is for 15 or 20 minutes. A pool of employees is created who have undergone this cleansing – sat out the two-week quarantine. They are considered clean and can work directly in the same room as Putin. All of the president’s aides take PCR tests almost several times a day.”
He also learned from conversations with other FSO employees that the palace in Gelendzhik did belong to Putin and that the president had been there many times.
“I think the most frequently visited one is the Valdai. He has offices either in St. Petersburg, Sochi, or in Novo-Ogarevo – they are the same, and everything there is identical.
The guys shared with a smile that when Putin is in Sochi, it deliberately makes it seem as if he is leaving. They bring in a plane, and motorcade rides. But in reality, he stays in Sochi. I think this is, firstly, an attempt to confuse foreign intelligence and, secondly, to ensure that there are no attempts on his life,” believes Karakulov.
Putin has changed a lot since 2009: “In terms of his behavior, they are two different people. He was, of course, just as active until 2020, judging by his business trips, there were indeed a lot of them. Now he is very withdrawn. He has walled himself off from the world with all kinds of barriers, the same quarantine, and a lack of information. His perception of reality has become warped.
Karakulov also appealed to fellow Russian officers, including those from the FSO, to tell the truth about Putin.
“You must not follow criminal orders and serve this war criminal – Vladimir Putin. And I consider him specifically a war criminal. It is in your hands to stop this madness very quickly. I would very much like you to do this because you will save a lot of lives”