Ukraine believes that Vladimir Putin has negotiated guarantees of his safety with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the event of his removal from power.
It is suspected that if he is deposed, the Russian leader will take refuge in China with a non-extradition agreement, which means that China will not send him abroad to stand trial for war crimes committed during his invasion.
Xi visited Moscow and met his autocratic Russian counterpart last week, with the two announcing their friendship and pledging closer ties, as Putin’s forces continue to struggle to make gains in what he called a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Full details of their conversations during the summit were not released, but the meeting is widely seen as China offering its support to Putin at a time when Western countries – such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and other NATO allies – are uniting behind Ukraine.
Some analysts also interpreted the meeting as evidence that Xi has more strength in the relationship, as Beijing helped rescue Russia from Western sanctions imposed on Moscow’s economy in the aftermath of the invasion.
Xi visited Moscow and met Putin last week (pictured together on March 21), with the two declaring their friendship and pledging closer ties, as Putin’s forces continue to struggle to make gains in what it calls a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine.
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, tweeted on Monday (pictured) that Putin’s safety in the event of him losing power was one of the ‘major negotiating topics’ between Putin and Xi during their meetings last week.
Now, according to a ministerial advisor in Ukraine, it is believed that one of the topics of conversation during the summit was about whether Putin should lose his power.
Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, tweeted today that this was likely one of the “major negotiating topics” between Putin and Xi during their meetings last week.
Should Putin be ousted, Gerachenko said, the deal would see the Russian leader flee to China, with a non-extradition agreement.
The deal report comes after the International Criminal Court accused Putin of illegally deporting Ukrainian children to Russia earlier this month.
“It is likely that one of the main topics of negotiations between Putin and Xi Jinping will be guarantees of Putin’s personal safety in the event of his loss of power, a possible shelter for him in China and his non-addition to an international tribunal,” Gerashchenko wrote.
Although public dissent is rare in Russia due to its strict anti-free speech laws, there have been reports of dissatisfaction with Putin’s leadership.
Russia’s stunning military failures in Ukraine have led to dissenting grievances—particularly among the country’s most hardline and pro-war groups.
While their ire tends to be directed more at failed Russian generals, other military leaders—such as Wagner’s Yevgeny Prigozhin and Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov—have been more vocal about their dissatisfaction with the war’s progress.
If the trajectory of Putin’s war in Ukraine continues to decline and discontent among Russian elites reaches a boiling point, Kremlin insiders or opportunistic bumbling figures may rebel. This could remove Putin from a position of absolute power.
A concerted plot to usurp the autocrat by political will and influence – like Presidents Gorbachev and Khrushchev before him – likely comes from within Russia’s formal power structure.
Ukrainian soldiers ride on top of an armored personnel carrier at the front line in Pakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, yesterday.
Smoke rises from a burning building yesterday in an aerial view of Bakhmut, the site of fierce battles with Russian forces in the Donetsk region.
In the unlikely event he is deposed and managed to escape, Putin will likely seek to flee to safety abroad to avoid facing punishment at home.
Such a deal with Xi Jinping would make China an ideal destination for Putin.
It was not clear from Gerachenko’s tweet what Xi would gain from such a deal, nor did he speculate on what Putin offered Xi in return.
If Putin loses power, he will likely be seen as useless in Beijing’s own plan for the world, and he will be considered a wanted man.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant earlier this month accusing Putin of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. She said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears individual criminal responsibility.
Russian officials have warned that any attempt to arrest Putin, Russia’s supreme leader since the last day of 1999, would amount to a declaration of war against the world’s largest nuclear power.
The ICC, in its first arrest warrant for Ukraine, called for the arrest of Putin on suspicion of illegal deportation of children and illegal transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation since February 24 last year.
The Kremlin says the ICC arrest warrant is a disgraceful partisan decision, but it makes no sense in relation to Russia. Russian officials deny committing war crimes in Ukraine and say the West has ignored what it calls Ukrainian war crimes.
Major powers such as Russia, the United States and China are not members of the ICC although 123 countries are party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, including Britain, France, Germany and some former Soviet republics such as Tajikistan.
Ukraine is not a member of the International Criminal Court, although Kiev has granted it jurisdiction to try crimes committed on its territory.
Speaking after the warrant was released earlier this month, one expert suggested that the ICC charge could precipitate Putin’s removal from power.
Sir Geoffrey Nice, who was the chief prosecutor in the trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, said it was “extremely important” that the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping toast during dinner at the Palace of Facets, a building in the Moscow Kremlin, March 21
He noted that “profiling and treating Putin as a criminal” could inspire regime change or “encourage the replacement process”.
Sir Geoffrey told Sky News on Friday: “There is enough information leaking out to suggest that there is some discontent with his leadership.”
“It matters because this man is now – as many say he should have been a few weeks after the war began – branded a criminal.”
Sir Geoffrey added that the war in Ukraine was now a “right and just war” being “criminally led”.