An unconfirmed report indicates that a restive Russian elite could overthrow Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The Kyiv Independent, which is hardly unbiased, tweeted a morsel that could not be verified.
“Ukraine’s military intelligence claim that Russia’s elites scheme to overthrow Putin to restore economic ties with Western countries. Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of FSB security agency, is allegedly being considered as Putin’s successor, according to Ukraine’s intelligence,” it tweeted.
⚡️Ukraine’s military intelligence claim that Russia’s elites scheme to overthrow Putin to restore economic ties with Western countries.
Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of FSB security agency, is allegedly being considered as Putin’s successor, according to Ukraine's intelligence.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 20, 2022
“The real threat to Putin comes from the siloviki, a Russian word used loosely to describe Russia’s security and military elite. These are people like Nikolai Patrushev, currently the secretary of the Russian security council, and Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), as well as other current and former senior security officials,” he wrote.
“Men like Patrushev and Bortnikov not only possess hard power, but they know how to use it and are inclined to do so. The FSB includes around 160,000 members of the Border Guard service, as well as thousands of armed personnel with law enforcement authorities. But the strength of the FSB comes not only from its ability to do violence; the organization is also highly secretive. FSB officers are skilled at working clandestinely, keeping their most sensitive operations strictly compartmented to small groups. Putin understands this better than most: He once ran the organization himself,” Hall wrote.
“The invasion of Ukraine has triggered a withering response that threatens the viability of the Russian state. As in 1991, the country is at grave risk. The siloviki, watching the slow-motion dissolution of the kleptocratic autocracy that has kept them in power for the past three decades, have the ability to end Putin’s regime. They may decide to act,” he wrote.
Putin has shown zero tolerance for public opposition to the war, jailing protesters who continue to swell on Russian streets, according to The New York Times.
“The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and simply spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew into their mouths,” Putin said last week in announcing a new crackdown against anyone opposing him. “I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-purification of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, cohesion and readiness to respond to any challenges.”
That has resulted in vast numbers of Russians fleeing the county.
More than 25,000 have fled to Georgia, a former Soviet republic, according to the BBC.
Those remaining behind live in a world of highly regulated information, according to The Washington Post.
Amid state TV that talks about Nazis in Ukraine, many Russians are circumventing the official ban on connecting to social media that tell the rest of the world what is actually happening.
Mikhail Shevelev, a Moscow-based journalist, talked of “shock, hatred and depression,” of the “drastic” divide among Russian citizens who only know what Putin’s government tells them and those who are fully informed.
“It’s really difficult for anyone — even Russians who do not live in Russia — to understand the scale of absolutely illogical perceptions of information and outright lies,” he said.
“The war is not popular and the economic decline is not going to be popular. I think it brings forward the demise of Putin’s regime,” Vladimir Ashurkov, chief executive of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said.
“I think we will see increasingly widespread dissent in the business and political elite, and mass dissatisfaction in the population – I think this will lead to big political change,” Ashurkov said.
“I think that it’s likely that we see a real change of government within five years. At what cost? How exactly will it happen? That remains to be seen,” he said.