Putin’s endgame? Kremlin infighting spills into the open

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Ukraine War & Ptuins

Before invading Ukraine, Vladimir had complete control over the situation.

To a greater extent than at any time in the past two decades, critics of the Russian president now believe his departure is imminent, but they disagree on the timing, nature, and identity of his potential successor. He has a lot riding on the outcome of a battle that is quickly turning against him and chipping away at his sense of invincibility.

As demoralised Russian forces are forced to retreat after humiliating defeats in Ukraine War and a bungled, unpopular mobilisation backfires on the home front, in the past weeks Kremlin infighting has spilled into the open, with insiders publicly criticising each other and Moscow’s top-level military command.
There is evidence of jockey for position amongst top officials as they seek to take advantage of the new political climate. Russian elites such as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and paramilitary head Yevgeny Prigozhin have reportedly shown rare public signs of discontent, according to Kremlin watchers.
Putin’s prime minister from 2000 to 2004, Mikhail Kasyanov, believes the president’s grip on power could abruptly loosen. Kasyanov, who is currently in exile, told Sky News on September 30th, “I believe in three or four months there will be a fundamental change.”

While some of Putin’s detractors are more certain than others about when he will fall from power, most agree that the conflict has marked a turning point, with more and more Russians voicing their disapproval of the country’s military leadership.

I don’t know whether he can squirm out,” Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a famous Putin opponent and Russian exile, told POLITICO. Kremlin officials and other major political figures appear to be contemplating life beyond Putin as a result of Ukraine’s resistance and Russia’s mistakes and incompetent war tactics, he noted.

The Ukraine war party

Khodorkovsky thinks this is the reason why some Kremlin insiders are seeking the political spotlight, including Kadyrov and Prigozhin, who are generally staunch allies of the Russian leader. They’ve been criticising Russian military leaders, who they call “peacetime generals,” with increasingly harsh language.

They are the heads of a “Ukraine war party” that has been advocating for more aggressive measures to be taken in Ukraine war. Both men are being very careful to give the impression of loyalty, but Khodorkovsky still has his doubts. Khodorkovsky claimed that “Putin now has full influence over Prigozhin.” However, he is also preparing for a future without Putin. He’s also becoming close to Kadyrov, he says.
Changes to Prigozhin’s strategy are apparent. For the first time in late September, he admitted he was the founder of the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organisation accused of committing horrific human rights atrocities on the Kremlin’s behalf in Africa, Syria, and Ukraine. Given that he has already sued the media for falsely identifying him as Wagner’s boss, this confession comes as a shock.

Now, he’s trying to present himself as a legitimate military leader by applauding Kadyrov’s calls on social media for “more drastic measures,” such as declaring martial law in Russia’s border regions and “use of low-yield nuclear weapons,” in response to Ukraine’s counteroffensives around Kharkiv and Kherson.

Prigozhin has also agreed with Kadyrov’s request to punish incompetent commanders by demoting them and sending them to the front lines. Beautiful, Ramzan, continue doing it, Prigozhin said in a social media post. They should send these guys to the battle lines armed with machine weapons and no shoes, he said.

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