Vladimir Putin is unlikely to last until the end of the war in Ukraine, with “active discussions” happening in Russia over who will replace him, the eastern neighbour’s spy chief has claimed. The comments come from Major General Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s head of intelligence, as Russia’s ruling class grow frustrated with Putin’s invasion. Russian troops are now fleeing large parts of eastern Ukraine as the opposition continue their fierce counter offensive strategy, with a focus on recapturing the city of Kherson.
Some 40,000 Russian troops are regrouping around the region and according to Major General Budanov, it includes some of the “most trained and most capable Russian units”.
He believes Kherson could be retaken by the end of next month and added that a counter-offensive to recapture Crimea could happen next year as Ukraine continues to make progress against opposition forces.
The spy chief also believes the war started by Putin could lead to the Russian President’s own downfall.
Major General Budanov told The War Zone: “It’s unlikely that he survives it. And currently, there are active discussions happening in Russia about who’d be there to replace him.”
Russia has been hit by scores of devastating losses in the battlefield and combined with the Ukrainian counter offensive efforts pushing opposition troops backwards, Putin’s war strategy is coming under serious scrutiny.
There has also been widespread speculation Russia is quickly running out of weapons during the war, while his partial mobilisation of troops saw thousands of Russians attempt to flee the country.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired British Army officer who served for nearly 30 years, told Express.co.uk: “There are definitely rumblings among the political elites in Moscow and dissent among some of his close military allies.
“They and politicians in Russia are making very unusual public dissent. It is very possible some of the political elites in Moscow might be planning to get rid of Putin and that is a very distinct possibility.
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“You can’t say it will happen and I know it’s not easy, but I think it is certainty a likelihood.”
Retired US General Ben Hodges, the former Commanding Officer of the US Army Europe, warned there is a “power struggle going on inside the Kremlin” with many becoming increasingly unhappy with Putin.
He also believes there is a “widening gap” between the Russian Genral Staff and Putin, with support fast plummeting for the President.
General Hodges told Express.co.uk: “There is a significant power struggle going on inside the Kremlin. You have people that are even more ultra-nationalist and hawkish than Putin that are unhappy with how it’s going.
“When you go below that, there does seem to be a widening gap between the general staff and Putin himself.
“I don’t think Putin trusts his generals much anymore and that’s why they have finally found Sergei Surovikin, whose two redeeming qualities seem to be brutality and loyalty.
“You can’t conceal this from the general population forever – the number of casualties, the fact this is going to continue, the impact of sanctions.
“There is a large percentage of the population that think this is great and were cheering the recent missile strikes on Ukraine, but I’m under no illusion there is going to be a massive uprising in Russia, and I don’t think Putin can count on unbridled support any longer.”