Vladimir Putin's bloody invasion of Ukraine has led him to face massive political pressure for his job in the Kremlin, and rumours are now swirling that his potential replacement could be even more terrifying.
Should Putin be removed, it's thought Alexander Bortnikov, an ex-KGB agent accused of having a hand in the death of a spy on British soil would succeed him.
The new information comes via the Ukrainian intelligence service which claims to have unearthed a plot devised in the upper reaches of Russian society to dethrone Putin once and for all.
In order to remove Vlad, the Russian's are reportedly considering all options, up to and including poisoning and faking an accident.
And should they succeed, sources understand his former sidekick Alexander Bortnikov is in pole position to replace him.
Ukrainian intelligence believes that the plotters have picked out the 70-year-old as they feel he could spearhead the restoration of economic ties with the west.
Acting as the head of the domestic FSB spy agency, Bortnikov has tentacles everywhere in Eastern Europe and and is believed to have a network of insiders working and living within Ukraine.
Bortnikov has always been ruthless and made his name in a similar manner to Putin by working as a KGB agent in East Germany.
Infamously, the career spy was also thought to have been involved in the the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, according to the New York Times.
Litvinenko was a reformed spy who had claimed asylum in the UK, where he worked to expose the corrupt practices of the Kremlin before he was fatally poisoned with polonium.
In more charming news about his character, Bortnikov has also been criticised in the past for being too pro Stalin.
In 2017 he came under heavy criticism from more than 30 academics who claimed that he was legitimising the mass purges carried out under Joseph Stalin known as the Great Terror.
Historians estimate about one million people died in the purges in the 1930s.
In the interview he said archives show that "a significant part" of the criminal cases of those killed during that period "had an objective side to them".
He said he did not want to "whitewash anyone" but pointed to "links of coup plotters to foreign security agencies".
Even without the presidency, Bortnikov's role as head of the FSB in 2008 makes him one of the most powerful people in Russia.
The sprawling security apparatus employs hundreds of thousands of people and is in charge of everything from counter-terrorism to border security, counterintelligence and electronic surveillance.
Terrorizing political opposition, such as the imprisoned Alexei Navalny, and anti-war protesters also falls under his remit.
Bortnikov also has a history in the world of state controlled finances which might also strengthen his ability to build a powerbase in the event of a coup.
Around the turn of the millennium, not long after Putin was appointed acting president by Boris Yeltsin, Bortnikov was made head of the Economic Security Service (SEB).
As the central instrument used to control the economy, and one which embedded its officers in every major company to control and extract information from them, he wielded huge power and leverage.
As one former SEB officer told Russian investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan: “The SEB has enough material to close down any major Russian company and jail any of the company owners whenever they want.”
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As well as being steeped in connections, Bortnikov is well decorated reports the Mirror.
According to Russian media reports he was awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation, the highest honorary title in Russia.
He is also one of a small handful of people to earn the rank of Army General.
None of this would have been possible without the backing of Putin, whose rule in Russia has seemed to be total for the past two decades.
It is now thought Putin is furious with Bortnikov for allowing his military commanders to be wrong-footed by the ferocious Ukrainian defence against the invasion.
Already Russian security council deputy head Dmitry Medvedev has sacked FSB deputy Vyacheslav Ushakov over bungles in intelligence that led to the invasion.
The sacking has also left Bortnikov, who apparently suggested it, in disgrace with Putin.
One Ukrainian intelligence source revealed recently: “It is noteworthy that Bortnikov has recently been disgraced by the Russian dictator.
“The official reason for the disgrace of the FSB leader – fatal miscalculations in the war against Ukraine.
“Bortnikov and his department were responsible for analysing the mood of Ukraine and the ability of the Ukrainian army.”
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