Putin specifies in the documentary that four people were present when he made the statement. Those involved in the meeting were “the leaders of our special services and the defence ministry.” It is not clear whether only the four were present throughout, or whether they were a rump kept behind to hear Putin announce his intentions.

Whatever the nature of their presence, who might the four have been? Zygar’ (2016) suggests secretary of the Security Council Patrushev, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Bortnikov, head of the Presidential Administration Ivanov, and Minister of Defence Shoigu. They indeed seem the most likely four. The first three have solid backgrounds in the security agencies and personal links with Putin.4 Neither can be said of Shoigu. With a background in civil engineering and low-level komsomol and party work in the Soviet period, he took over what became the Ministry of Emergency Situations in 1991, until after a brief interlude as governor of the Moscow region he was appointed Minister of Defence in 2012. Despite lacking a classic silovik background and personal ties with Putin, and indeed having the dangerous liabilities of personal popularity and even being described as a possible successor, he appears to enjoy Putin’s trust. That, plus the relevance of his formal position, suggests he would have been present.

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