Vladimir Putin is facing a deepening schism among his Kremlin elites over his handling of the Ukraine war. Putin announced the annexations of four Ukrainian regions at a ceremony in the Kremlin on September 30. In a speech in front of hundreds of officials at St George’s Hall, he stated that the residents of the four regions would be “our citizens forever”.
However, at the time of his announcement, many questions remained about the extent of control Russia was able to exert over the four provinces in the face of determined resistance and counterattacks by Kyiv’s army.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of intelligence at Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence, claimed the announcement sparked a schism among Kremlin elites, which is likely to intensify as Kyiv liberates more territories.
He said Kremlin elites largely did not support Putin’s decision to annex the four provinces prior to securing those territories.
Putin’s insistence on going ahead with his plans prompted many Russian officials to contact their Western counterparts to express their disinterest in continuing the war, Budanov alleged.
The intelligence chief claimed that some Kremlin elites began advocating for negotiations with Ukraine to Western officials, while the Russian military-political command plotted missile strikes to scare Kyiv into negotiations.
Commenting on the annexations in an interview with Ukraine Parvada, Budanov said: “No one was happy.
“This is a disaster for them, they know it very well. They understood even more that this was the end.
“This is the end and they have to look for ways out.”
He added: “The higher military and political leadership began to carry out massive strikes – this is an act of terrorism – in order to force negotiations.
“They see it that way. It won’t work.
“Others ran to negotiate, as they say, with Western countries.
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“How to negotiate? To say: ‘We’re useless here, it’s not us. But we’re ready for changes, it all has to stop.’ “
Telegram groups affiliated with the Wagner private militia have commented on Kremlin elites splitting into pro-war and pro-negotiation groups since the annexation announcements.
The head of the paramilitary, Yvegeny Prigozhinn, has also consistently referenced the factionalism within the Kremlin, even explicitly stating that he is part of the “war until victory” faction.
He wrote on his Telegram channel: “I am not the leader of the War party, but I am a member of the War to a Victorious End party.”
He added: “I am a representative of the party “War to the bitter end, as a collective work with clearly defined tasks, resources and goals.”
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Ukraine’s intelligence chief said the competition to succeed Putin was heating up among his acolytes.
Both Dmitry Medvedev, a former prime minister, and Dmitry Patrushev, the son of the head of Russia’s security council, are said to be in the running.
Budanov, however, noted: “Medvedev has no chance. As for Patrushev’s son, it is primarily his father who wants to see him as president.
“This is the main one who wants it. Does Patrushev have a chance?
“Hypothetically there is. But he is not alone there.”