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Vladimir Putin‘s risk of being deposed by a Russian security-service led coup is growing every week, a whistleblower has claimed.
Chaos and discontent over Russia’s botched invasion of Ukraine has grown within the ranks of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and Putin’s position at the head of the Kremlin is growing increasingly unstable, the source claimed.
When Russia unleashed its invasion on February 24, a swift toppling of Ukraine’s democratically elected government seemed likely. But with Wednesday marking four full weeks of fighting, Russia is bogged down in a grinding military campaign.
Speaking to The Times, Vladimir Osechkin – a man wanted for his work exposing abuse in Russia’s prisons – has shared updates from a source within the FSB that suggests anger towards Putin is mounting.
The Russian president is said to blame the FSB for the failure to quickly take control of the country. FSB officers meanwhile are becoming disillusioned with increasingly oppressive sanctions imposed by the West on Russia, and are growing frustrated.
Citing his source, Osechkin told the newspaper that this has meant the country’s high-flying secret service agents have been prevented from travelling to their holiday homes or have been unable to ‘take their kids to Disneyland Paris’.
Vladimir Putin’s risk of being deposed by a Russian security-service led coup is growing every week, a whistleblower has claimed today. Pictured: Vladimir Putin (second left) at a a gala even in November 2018 along-side senior Russian military figures
FSB officers are paid far more than the average Russian, and are also handed an apartment by the state. Putin himself was the director of the FSB from 1998 to 1999, before he become president in 2000, taking over from Boris Yeltsin.
‘For 20 years Putin created stability in Russia. FSB officers, policemen, state prosecutors — those people inside the system — were able to live good lives,’ Osechkin told The Times.
But now, with Western sanctions, that has gone. Russia’s economy has been crippled and the value of the Rouble has plummeted. Having grown accustomed to a better life, the FSB agents don’t want to ‘go back to the Soviet Union’, Osechkin said.
The Russian said that disillusioned agents were willing to change the whole system in if necessary. ‘For every week and every month that this war continues, the possibility of a rebellion by those in the security services increases,’ he added.
Osechkin did not name his source, for obvious reasons, but said that they are in charge of a small analytics department within the secret service.
He told The Times that the whistleblower communicates only with the handle ‘wearenotallsadists’, having first got in touch in October 2021.
This came after Osechkin’s human rights group Gulagu.net posted videos from inside a prison in Saratov, southwestern Russia. The video in question showed a prisoner being tortured by FSB officers.
Two days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the whistleblower told Osechkin that FSB officers were looking to cause unrest in Ukrainian prisons that it hoped would lead to riots in an effort to sew chaos within the country.
Osechkin gained significant coverage earlier this month when, on March 4, he published a 2,000-word report from his source that said Putin’s war in Ukraine would be a ‘total failure’ comparable to the collapse of Nazi Germany.
Destroyed buildings and a military vehicle are seen as civilians being evacuated along humanitarian corridors from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol under the control of Russian military and pro-Russian separatists, on March 21, 2022
Pictured: A shopping mall lies in ruins after a Russian missile strike of the Russian troops in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv on March 23, 2022
The report added that Russia’s forces have ‘no options to victory, only defeat’ as they continued to meet strong Ukrainian resistance, that experts believe has surprised many in Moscow including the president himself.
The whistleblower also claimed the FSB – Russia‘s successor to the Soviet Union’s feared KGB – was being blamed for the failure of Moscow’s forces to make significant progress into Ukraine, despite being given no advanced warning of the invasion.
The report also said Russia’s government has lost contact with a number of its divisions that have been sent into Ukraine, meaning they had no accurate death toll.
Christo Grozev, an expert on Russia’s security services who works for investigative journalism group Bellingcat, said he has shown the report two current or former FSB contacts who told him they had ‘no doubt it was written by a colleague’.
Writing on Twitter at the time, Grozev said that while his contacts did not necessarily agree with all the assertions in the report, they were confident in its origin.
Meanwhile, NATO estimated today that anywhere between 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine.
Ferocious fighting by the country’s fast-moving defenders has denied Moscow the lightning victory it sought. By way of comparison, Moscow lost about 15,000 soldiers in Afghanistan over 10 years.
A senior NATO military official said the alliance’s estimate was based on information from Ukrainian officials, what Russia has released – intentionally or not – and intelligence gathered from open sources.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by NATO.
Vladimir Putin’s risk of being deposed by a Russian security-service led coup is growing every week, a whistleblower has claimed today. Pictured: A woman walks in front of the headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Services (FSB) in central Moscow on March 16, 2022
Vladimir Putin is said to blame the FSB for the failure to quickly take control of the country. FSB officers meanwhile are becoming disillusioned with increasingly oppressive sanctions imposed by the West on Russia
With Russia’s ground forces repeatedly slowed or stopped by hit-and-run Ukrainian units armed with Western-supplied weapons, Putin’s troops are bombarding targets from afar, using medieval tactics they deployed in Syria and Chechnya.
Addressing Japan’s parliament on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said four weeks of war have killed thousands of his people, including at least 121 children.
‘Our people cannot even adequately bury their murdered relatives, friends and neighbours. They have to be buried right in the yards of destroyed buildings, next to the roads,’ he said.
Still, major Russian objectives remain unfulfilled. The capital, Kyiv, has been shelled repeatedly but is not even encircled.
Near-constant shelling and gunfire shook the city Wednesday, with plumes of black smoke rising from the western outskirts, where the two sides battled for control of multiple suburbs. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least 264 civilians have been killed in the capital since war broke out.
In the south, the port city of Mariupol has seen the worst devastation of the war, under weeks of siege and bombardment. But Ukrainian forces have prevented its fall, thwarting an apparent bid by Moscow to fully secure a land bridge from Russia to Crimea, seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Zelensky said 100,000 civilians remain in a city that had 430,000 people. Efforts to get desperately needed food and other supplies to those trapped have often failed.
Cleanup continues at Retroville Shopping Mall in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 23, 2022. The complex was destroyed by a Russian airstrike the day before. At least 8 people were killed initially and one person is dead after a second strike today
With the Russian advance stalled, Ukrainian forces have begun counterattacking in some parts of the country
Zelensky accused Russian forces of seizing a humanitarian convoy. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the Russians were holding captive 11 bus drivers and four rescue workers along with their vehicles.
It is not clear how much of Mariupol is still under Ukrainian control. Fleeing residents say fighting continues street by street. In their last update, over a week ago, Mariupol officials said at least 2,300 people had died, but the true toll is probably much higher. Airstrikes in the past week destroyed a theater and an art school where civilians were sheltering.
In the besieged northern city of Chernihiv, Russian forces bombed and destroyed a bridge that was used for aid deliveries and civilian evacuations, regional governor Viacheslav Chaus said.
Kateryna Mytkevich, who arrived in Poland after fleeing Chernihiv, wiped away tears as she spoke about what she had seen. The city is without gas, electricity or running water, said Mytkevich, 39, and entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed.
‘I don’t understand why we have such a curse,’ she said.
Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted the military operation is going ‘strictly in accordance’ with plans.
The most recent figure for Ukraine’s military losses came from Zelensky on March 12, when he said that about 1,300 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed in action.
The NATO official said 30,000 to 40,000 Russian soldiers are estimated to have been killed or wounded.
Russia has released very little information on its casualties, saying March 2 that nearly 500 soldiers had been killed and almost 1,600 wounded.
Ukraine also claims to have killed six Russian generals. Russia acknowledges just one dead general.
The figures from NATO represent the alliance’s first public estimate of Russian casualties since the war began. The U.S. government has largely declined to provide public estimates of Russian or Ukrainian casualties, saying available information is of questionable reliability.
With casualties mounting and quick victory no longer in sight, Russia is having to work to suppress dissent and shore up morale.
It has arrested thousands of antiwar protesters and cracked down on the media. Also, under a law passed Wednesday, troops in Ukraine will get the same benefits as veterans of previous wars, including tax breaks, discounts on utilities and preferential access to medical treatment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said today that four weeks of war have killed thousands of his people, including at least 121 children
In an apparent reflection of growing divisions in Russia’s top echelons, top official Anatoly Chubais has resigned, Peskov told the Interfax news agency.
Chubais, the architect of Russia’s post-Soviet privatisation campaign, had served at a variety of top official jobs over three decades. His latest role was as Putin’s envoy to international organisations.
Peskov would not say if Chubais had left the country.
Western officials say Putin’s forces are facing serious shortages of food, fuel and cold weather gear, with soldiers suffering frostbite, while Ukraine’s defenders have been going more on the offensive.
Still, Russia’s far stronger, bigger military has many Western military experts warning against overconfidence in Ukraine’s long-term odds.
The Kremlin’s practice in past wars has been to grind down resistance with strikes that flattened cities, killing countless civilians and sending millions fleeing.
Talks to end the fighting have continued by video. Zelensky said negotiations with Russia are going ‘step by step, but they are going forward.’
With no peace, those not yet fighting prepared to do so.
‘Everything’s a best-seller these days,’ said Zakhar Sluzhalyy, who owns a gun shop in the western city of Lviv. ‘We’re defending our land,’ he said. ‘We’re fighting for our freedom and that of the rest of Europe.’
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