Kremlin officials 'are already discussing who will replace Putin' because 'there is an understanding he will not run the country in the foreseeable future'
- Russian-Latvian outlet Meduza said Kremlin sources shared details of discontent
- 'There are almost no (Russian elites) who are satisfied with Putin', sources said
- The discontent with the president is shared by pro-war and pro-peace elites alike
- Businessmen and government officials are said to be devastated by sanctions
- While members of the intelligence community believe Putin has botched the war
- It comes as Ukraine's spy chief claimed Putin had escaped an assassination attempt and is isolating himself further due to concerns of a coup
PUBLISHED: 05:02 AEST, 25 May 2022 | UPDATED: 05:20 AEST, 25 May 2022
Top-ranking Russian officials are said to be plotting a government without Vladimir Putin after Kremlin sources claimed the Russian President has turned almost everybody against him amid the invasion of Ukraine.
Three months to the day since Russian tanks first rolled across the Ukrainian border, a government source told Russian-Latvian outlet Meduza 'there are almost no people who are satisfied with Putin' among Kremlin officials and Russian elites.
'Businessmen and many members of the government are unhappy that the president started the war without thinking about the scale of the sanctions - it is impossible to live with such sanctions,' the source said - a sentiment which was later corroborated by two other government insiders.
'The problems [in Russia due to the war] are already visible, and by midsummer they will come from different directions: transport, medicine, even agriculture. No one simply thought of such a scale,' Meduza's interlocutor close to the government explained.
The revelation comes as Kyiv's spy chief claimed yesterday that Putin had escaped an assassination attempt around one month into the war, and declared the Russian leader's isolation is a preventative measure borne from a deep mistrust of his subordinates.
Russia's three-month long invasion, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen over 6.5 million people flee abroad, turned entire cities into rubble, and prompted the unprecedented imposition of Western sanctions on Russia.
Top-ranking Russian officials are said to be plotting a government without Vladimir Putin (pictured) after Kremlin sources claimed the Russian President has turned almost everybody against him amid the invasion of Ukraine
'There are almost no people who are satisfied with Putin' among Kremlin officials and Russian elites, according to government sources cited by Meduza (Putin is pictured speaking with members of the Security Council last week)
Maksym, 3, is photographed with his brother, Dmytro, 16, on top of a destroyed Russian tank, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, May 8, 2022. Three months after it invaded Ukraine hoping to overtake the country in a blitz, Russia has bogged down in what increasingly looks like a war of attrition with no end in sight
Ukraine's military spy chief Kyrylo Budanov said he fears the Russian leader still has a 'few more years' left in him, but claimed Putin had escaped an assassination attempt and is wary of being deposed
A veteran Russian diplomat to the UN office in Geneva resigned yesterday over what he described as Putin's 'intolerable' invasion of Ukraine, and lent further credence to Meduza's claims in saying many Russian diplomats do not support the war.
Boris Bondarev, 41, resigned on Monday morning after 20 years in the diplomatic service before sending a letter to 40 diplomats in which he said he had never been 'so ashamed of my country'.
In the letter, he condemned 'the aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine and in fact against the entire Western world' - and supported Meduza's claims that high-ranking government officials in Russia are disapproving of the war.
'It is intolerable what my government is doing now... not all Russian diplomats are warmongering. They are reasonable, but they have to keep their mouths shut,' Bondarev claimed.
'[The invasion] is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia... it is crossing out all hopes and prospects for a prosperous free society in our country'.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shrugged of Bondarev's departure however, declaring the diplomat is 'against us' and that the 'actions of the Russian leadership are supported by almost the entire population.
Even Russian elites who are in favour of the 'special military operation' in Ukraine share the discontent of their peace-seeking compatriots.
Meduza claimed that high-ranking officials in Russia's security services FSB and GRU - referred to as 'hawks' - believe Putin has botched the invasion and want to seize control of the operation.
'The hawks are not satisfied with the pace of the 'special operation'. They think they can act more decisively,' a source said.
Putin reportedly removed the FSB - Russia's domestic security agency - as the lead organisation responsible for intelligence gathering in Ukraine after early setbacks, and replaced it with military intelligence agency GRU.
But the Russian President has seized control of the military operation, personally handing orders out to generals and struggling to delegate responsibilities.
Meanwhile, the head of the main intelligence directorate of Ukraine's ministry of defence declared yesterday Putin is cutting himself off from close contact with his subordinates to avoid any assassination attempts.
'Looking at some of his manic syndromes, he is afraid to seriously prepare a successor, realising that in preparation, this successor may want to take the chair a little earlier than Putin himself wants,' Major General Kyrylo Budanov told Ukrainskaya Pravda.
The resignation of Russian diplomat Bondarev amounts to a rare - if not unprecedented - public admission of disgruntlement about Russia's war in Ukraine among the Russian diplomatic corps
In the letter sent to diplomats, Bondarev condemned the 'the aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine and in fact against the entire Western world'
Kyiv military spy chief Kyrylo Budanov declared yesterday Putin is cutting himself off from close contact with his subordinates to avoid any assassination attempts
'Therefore, he keeps everyone at a certain distance. And he believes that he will rule forever. But it will not be so.'
He said: 'Look at the history of any dictator of the 20th and 21st centuries. They all ended the same. In most cases, they died against their will.'
Budanov went on to claim the Russian leader had escaped an assassination attempt which took place roughly a month into the war.
'There was even an assassination attempt on him, as they say, by representatives of the Caucasus not so long ago.
'This is non-public information. Absolutely unsuccessful attempt, but it really took place… It was about two months ago.
'There was no public information about this event, but it happened.'
Top Russian officials are now doubling down on the information war in an attempt to further control the narrative as Putin's forces fight a bloody battle in the east of Ukraine.
Russia's parliament today passed a bill giving prosecutors powers to shut foreign media bureaus in Moscow if a Western country has been 'unfriendly' to Russian media.
Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has repeatedly scolded the West for preventing pro-Kremlin media such as the Sputnik news agency and RT television channel from operating by sanctioning the outlets
The bill needs to undergo two more readings, be reviewed by the upper house of parliament, and signed by Putin to become law.
But journalists of any media organisation deemed to be an offender under the bill would have their foreign ministry accreditation withdrawn - meaning they could not work in Russia.
The new bill adds to the challenges facing foreign media after Russia in March adopted a law which penalised what it termed spreading 'fake' news about its army.
'In the current geopolitical situation, the mass media has become an instrument of influence on the informational state of society,' an explanatory note said.
The bill was introduced by influential lawmakers, including Andrei Lugovoy, who was charged in absentia by British prosecutors for the 2006 poisoning murder of Alexander Litvinenko.
Lugovoy, a former KGB bodyguard, has repeatedly denied the charges.
Putin's policy of constant isolation comes even as his health continues to deteriorate according to a Russian Telegram channel which claims to have sources inside the Kremlin.
The Russian leader underwent 'successful' cancer surgery last week and is recovering following advice from medics that treatment was 'essential', according to Telegram channel General SVR.
The news emerged just hours before Putin appeared on state TV meeting with ally Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi, when he was caught on camera awkwardly twisting his feet while the pair sat down for talks.
It is the second time Putin has been filmed making the odd movement, which was caught on camera during a meeting with Tajikistan's president a week ago, and comes off the back of rumours that he is suffering Parkinson's.
Vladimir Putin has been filmed fidgeting with his feet in new footage while meeting with Alexander Lukashenko, amid fresh rumours about his health
Emomali Rahmon appeared to notice the movement during his meeting with Putin and glanced at the leader's feet, though did not raise it in conversation.
Critics have suggested the twisting motion could be an attempt to cover up the kind of involuntary twitches caused by Parkinson's - after Putin was seen shaking his arm and led before another meeting with Lukashenko on February 18.
Since then, he has been seen to grip the arms of chairs and corners of tables in what some believe to be an effort to disguise any shaking.
Whispers about Putin's health began at least two years ago when he was said to be suffering both Parkinson's and cancer, but have received renewed attention in the wake of his invasion of Ukraine.
The Kremlin has not commented on the latest allegations of Putin's ill-health, but regularly denies he is suffering any kind of difficulties.
General SVR wrote today: 'On the night of Monday May 16 to Tuesday May 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin underwent a surgical operation.
'The fact that Putin should be operated on as soon as possible was insisted upon by his attending physicians.
'According to the doctors involved in the treatment of the President, the operation was successful.
'We have already talked about the fact that Putin was personally absent from the information space from May 17 to May 19 and was not available even to his inner circle, with the exception of Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation.
'From May 17 to May 19, 'canned', pre-recorded meetings and messages were posted in the information space, and Putin personally held two telephone conversations during this time.'
It comes as a former MI6 chief predicted Putin will be 'gone by 2023' due to health problems and will not re-emerge as the leader of Russia.
Sir Dearlove told the One Decision podcast: 'I think (Putin) will be gone by 2023 - but probably into the sanatorium, from which he will not emerge as the leader of Russia'
Rumours have been circling for years that Putin (pictured gripping table during a meeting last month) has health problems, and they have intensified since he launched invasion of Ukraine
With persistent rumours of serious ill health for the Russian strongman, one method of 'moving things on' without need for a violent coup would be to place him in a long term hospital for the incurably unwell, suggested Richard Dearlove.
The various Russian systems of governance over the centuries have always been autocratic and have never been designed with transitions of power in mind.
But now, with Russia facing military humiliation and economic catastrophe thoughts are turning inwardly in the Kremlin as to how to replace the man in power.
These are the thoughts of Dearlove, who was speaking on the One Decision podcast which he co-hosts.
'I think he'll be gone by 2023 - but probably into the sanatorium, from which he will not emerge as the leader of Russia.'
'I'm not saying he won't emerge from the sanatorium, but he won't emerge as the leader of Russia any longer.
'That's a way to sort of move things on without a coup,' he concluded.
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Kremlin officials 'are already discussing who will replace Putin'
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