Here’s how Putin defends himself against assassination attempts and coup plots.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to have bodyguards with bulletproof briefcases and high-powered weapons, as well as look-alike stand-ins and food tasters, to protect him from would-be assassins and coup plotters.

The threat level against Putin, 69, was raised on Thursday when US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged for “someone in Russia to take this guy down” for orchestrating the bloody invasion of Ukraine.

However, Putin, a former KGB agent who has been in power since 2000, appears to be obsessed with both his security and his health — defending himself from assassins and avoiding COVID-19 at all costs, as seen by the lengths he’s gone to avoid contracting the virus.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) is surrounded by bodyguards as he leaves the Europe-Asia summit (ASEM) in Milan October 17, 2014.

He wore a hazmat suit — complete with a full face respirator — before visiting a Moscow hospital treating coronavirus patients in April 2020, as seen in recent photos. He met with world leaders and even his own advisers at opposite ends of extremely long tables to maintain at least 20 feet of distance between them, and he donned a hazmat suit — complete with a full face respirator — before visiting a Moscow hospital treating coronavirus patients in April 2020.

Putin’s bodyguards, known as the “Musketeers,” are part of Russia’s Federal Protective Service, or FSO, which dates back to 1881, when Czar Alexander III surrounded himself with guards after his father was assassinated by a bomb-throwing revolutionary, according to The Economist.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C front) and Novgorod Region Acting Governor Andrei Nikitin (R) seen after visiting a multipurpose state and municipal service centre.

The “Beyond Russia” website, which is administered by TV-Novosti, a state-funded enterprise that also manages the beleaguered RT propaganda network, has exposed a lot about the elite Presidential Security Service.

Putin’s bodyguards are said to be hand-picked for attributes such as “operational psychology,” physical stamina, and the capacity to tolerate cold and not sweat in hot weather, according to the website.

They’re said to be carrying Russian-made 9 mm SR-1 Vektor pistols armed with armor-piercing bullets, as well as special briefcases that function as shields to protect Putin.

Putin’s destination is scouted months in advance by advance teams, who check to see how the public will react and whether the area will be afflicted by poor weather or natural disasters.

Jamming devices are deployed to prevent remote detonation of bombs, and technicians conduct electronic surveillance of cellphones and other gadgets in the area wherever he stays.

Putin travels in a convoy of heavily armored vans carrying military special operators armed with AK-47 rifles, anti-tank grenade launchers, and portable anti-aircraft missiles.

When he goes out in public, he is surrounded by four rings of security: his personal bodyguards, others hidden among the throng, more ringing the perimeter, and snipers placed on the surrounding rooftops.

Russian Prime Minister and chairman of United Russia ruling party Vladimir Putin, second right, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, enter the tenth United Russia Party Congress in Moscow, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008.

When legendary mixed martial artist Conor McGregor placed his arm over Putin’s shoulders as they posed for photographers at the World Cup soccer championship in Moscow in 2018, one bodyguard was seen intervening.

The man briefly steps into view in a video shared on YouTube, fixing McGregor with a steely glare and motioning him to stop, leading the fighter to hastily remove his arm and embarrassed fold his hands together. The FSO is also said to have broad powers to undertake operations and investigations, including electronic eavesdropping, accessing mail, inspecting houses, seizing vehicles, and arresting and questioning suspects.

Putin’s bodyguards are apparently required to be replaced whenever they reach the age of 35, but they may be rewarded with powerful new positions such as regional governors, federal ministers, special operations commanders, and presidential administrators.

A security guard escorts Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) during a military ceremony in Moscow on February 23, 2015.

A 2018 investigation by Russia’s independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project revealed how a massive Soviet-era poultry plant outside of Moscow was appropriated and its valuable land was divided among high-ranking FSO and Presidential Security Service officers.

Three former Putin bodyguards were photographed flanking him during an official trip to Helsinki, Finland, in 1999, and were among those who profited from the scheme, according to the article.

In 2016, Russia Beyond reported on long-running suspicions that the FSO used a “presidential body double” to protect Putin’s safety, or “body No. 1,” on occasion.

A security person struggles with an umbrella as Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) walks out of a plane upon arriving for the fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) held in Shanghai on May 20, 2014.

Putin later admitted that he was given a body double during multiple trips to Chechnya in the early 2000s when Russia was fighting rebels there, but he said in a 2020 interview that he “declined these body doubles” every time the subject was brought up.

According to the founder of the “Club des Chefs des Chefs,” a gourmet group whose members prepare for heads of state and monarchs throughout the world, Putin also has someone try every dish he’s served to guarantee he’s not being poisoned.

“Tasters still exist,” Gilles Bragard told The Telegraph in 2012, “but only in the Kremlin, where a doctor checks every dish with the chef.”

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