Putin to ‘disappear’ as elites turn on Russian despot over Ukraine war

Putin appears to fall asleep during council meeting

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Putin claimed on Wednesday that Russia had “lost nothing” by sparking a war, which has killed thousands of Ukrainians and an estimated 50,000 Russian military personnel. His claims come as Ukraine launched a surprise counteroffensive in the north-east Kharkiv region, reportedly retaking several settlements. Ukrainian President Zelensky spoke of “good news” but did not elaborate on which Russian-occupied areas Ukraine had seized.

The apparent breakthrough follows a parallel counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region, where Ukrainian forces have pushed back the Russian frontline.

As Putin’s six-month war rages on, Russia’s powerful business elites are said to be growing increasingly weary, as the Russian economy continues to struggle under Western sanctions.

Media moguls and military suppliers are set to turn on Putin, leading to his eventual “disappearance”, according to Professor Nikolai Petrov, a senior research fellow on the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House.

Speaking to Express.co.uk about how the oligarchs could depose Putin, he said: “They will fight against each other, and it will destabilise the system.

“It will not be an uprising against Putin or at least it will not start as such. But it will be their fight, leading to the further weakening of the regime.

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“And finally, it can lead to Putin’s disappearance as the supreme arbiter who is providing this balance between all major elite groups.”

Professor Petrov, who has been following events in Russia and Ukraine, explained how Russian business chiefs will grow increasingly agitated with one another.

He said: “The pie is shrinking in a very essential way. And pieces of this pie, which are given to all major elite clans, should become smaller as well.

“They will see that their neighbour is getting more or is losing less than themselves. The tension is between these major elite groups, and this is the fight for survival.

“This is not just political ideas, but in order to survive, they need to keep their piece of pie as big as possible.”

Putin’s eventual exit from the Kremlin has been mapped out in a range of different scenarios.

Since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine began in February, some experts have considered whether there will be a regime change to remove the despot, possibly through an internal uprising of Russian officials.

However, some experts doubt whether a coup could take place due to Putin’s grip on Russia’s levers of power, including the protection he enjoys from his inner circle of security chiefs, known as the “siloviki” or “strongmen”.

This group includes figures like Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service, and Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, who is Putin’s closest advisor.

But Russian opposition politician Vladimir Milov stressed that an internal Kremlin coup from these men was unlikely, telling CNBC that we should not “have some rosy hopes about that”.

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Professor Petrov echoed this opinion, stressing that although individual members of the siloviki may be powerful, they are unlikely to coordinate as a group.

He said: “The so-called ‘siloviki’, who are considered to be extremely powerful, are powerful in a corporate sense.

“But not in the sense of individual players and forces of these siloviki corporations. So, it is pretty well-designed by Putin. First of all, they compete and even fight against each other.

“And second, if the corporation is pretty strong, like the FSB, it is not totally controlled by its formal boss.

“And there are some managed conflicts at the top, which will make it easier to control the whole corporation.”

He added: “So, the role of the siloviki is much more instrumental. They are realising certain orders and decisions coming from the top.

“Rather than making these decisions. Due to strong discipline, I would not wait for any kind of internal move from this side to oppose Putin and decisions he makes.”

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