Signs of instability in the Kremlin as Putin begins his purges
Putin suffers a series of embarassing defeats and lashes out at people surrounding him
Russia has been conducting its brutal war crimes in Ukraine while taking heavy losses. The military objective was to seize key Ukrainian cities in days but failed as Ukrainians held back Russian forces while destroying many others. Today marks one month since Putin ordered the brutal assault on Ukraine, and Russia has seen more losses than during the Soviet ten-year Afghanistan war. A senior military official from NATO estimated that up to 40,000 Russian troops have been killed, wounded, taken prisoner, or are missing in Ukraine.
As an isolated Putin suffers humiliation and heavy losses, we see signs of friction developing inside Russia, particularly with Putin’s agencies. Last week, Putin lashed out in a Stalinesque speech threatening a cleansing inside Russia to purge the scum and traitors. "The collective West is attempting to splinter our society," Putin during a meeting, "speculating on military losses, on socio-economic effects of sanctions, in order to provoke a people's rebellion in Russia."
"But any people, the Russian people especially, are able to distinguish true patriots from bastards and traitors, and will 'spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew into their mouths" referring to those who do not back the Kremlin’s war crimes in Ukraine.
Putin’s cleansing is what seems to be happening over the past few weeks as his paranoia and anger build after a series of embarrassing defeats in Ukraine. It started with reports that Putin had placed the head of the FSB's foreign service and his deputy under house arrest after blaming them for intelligence failings. Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russian intelligence services, posted on Twitter that sources inside the FSB told him that Sergey Beseda, 68, head of the agency's foreign service, and Anatoly Bolyukh, Beseda's deputy, were put under house arrest on orders from Putin. According to Soldatov, Putin is 'truly unhappy' with the agency after they allegedly provided intelligence suggesting that Ukraine was weak and victory would come easy. Then came chatter, last week, that the deputy chief of Russia’s Rosgvardia, General Roman Gavrilov, had been detained by FSB. While his arrest was never confirmed, a resignation came shortly after. Gavrilov was allegedly arrested for leaking information that led to the loss of life' and 'squandering of much-needed fuel.’
Dmitry Treschanin, a journalist from Mediazona, reported that he noticed that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had not been seen in public and the media since March 11. The publication "Agency" studied in detail the activity of the minister in the media space since the beginning of the war and also noticed his disappearance from the public. Their source, who is close to Shoigu, attributed the absence of Shoigu with “heart problems.”
There have also been reports that Russia’s central bank chief, Elvira Nabiullina, sought to resign after Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, but Putin refused to take her resignation. Meanwhile, Kremlin official Anatoly Chubais did resign. Chubais, one of the architects of Russia’s corrupt system, stepped down from his role as an international envoy for Putin and left for Turkey. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed this news earlier today "Yes, Chubais has resigned of his own will. But whether he has left [Russia] or stayed, that's his personal affair.”
And then came an exclusive CNN report of a meeting between Russian and US military officials last week that “led to an outburst of emotion from a normally stoic Russian general.” US officials present at the meeting said that this "revealing moment" hinted at larger morale problems in Russia's military. CNN reported that “as the meeting was breaking up, one US defense attaché "casually inquired" about Ilyin's family roots in Ukraine. The Russian general's "stoic demeanor suddenly became flushed and agitated. Ilyin responded "yes," and said that he was born in Dnipropetrovsk before moving with his family to Donetsk, where he went to school." US officials added that Ilyin said that the current situation in Ukraine is "tragic and I am very depressed over it" and immediately walked out of the meeting. This is a very rare glimpse into unprecedented behavior by a Russian general who usually would never show any signs of discontent. How long before news of his house arrest?
This is only the beginning of the purges of officials involved with the war. The longer Putin’s war continues and the more failures the Russian military has, the more we will see Putin lashing out and people around him disappearing, jailed, or worse.