Pro-war ‘ultra-patriots’ could overthrow ‘weak and tired’ Putin

Ukraine: Vladimir Putin’s position assessed by Richard Dearlove

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A leading Russian MP has warned Vladimir Putin’s days at the head of the Kremlin could be numbered as “ultra-patriots” are more likely to topple him amid the army’s repeated losses in Ukraine. The Russian leader has so far run the Federation with an iron fist by jailing all opponents, including Alexei Navalny, or having them exiled. But his inability to make any significant gains in eastern Ukraine where fighting has been raging on has reportedly angered members of the State Duma who could try to topple the Russian leader. Oleg Matveychev, a member of the pro-Putin United Russia Party, believes the biggest challenge to Putin’s power comes from fervent supporters of the conflict in Ukraine.

In an online interview with The Times, Matveychev said: “The situation is not so critical yet but 2023 will be very dangerous.

“We will not be pushed out [onto the streets] of Maidan,” he added, in reference to the Maidan Revolution, a wave of large-scale protests which culminated in the outbreak of the war between Russia and Ukraine in 2014.

Given “liberals” and opposition have either fled or been imprisoned, Matveychev said the only danger Putin faces now is what he called “turbo” or “ultra patriots”.

Some well-known nationalist and “patriotic” personalities have become enraged due to a disorganised mobilisation of reserves, bad tactics, and setbacks on the front line. One of them is Igor Girkin, a 52-year-old former commander of rebel forces in eastern Ukraine, who has asked for the resignation of Sergey Shoigu, the defence minister, and accused him of “criminal negligence.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, 61, the entrepreneur who oversees the Wagner mercenary company, is still a supporter of Putin but has criticised other Kremlin-aligned oligarchs for their lack of commitment to the war effort. He is also rumoured to be preparing to launch a new conservative political movement.

Matveychev predicts that the “ultra-patriots” will field a candidate in next year’s presidential elections when Putin is expected to run for a fifth term. That candidate would complain about tainted election results and “follow the Maidan scenario,” he said.

In 2013, deadly clashes broke out in Ukraine after former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the EU and instead chose closer ties to Russia.

Protesters were outraged by widespread government corruption and abuse of power, oligarchic influence, police brutality, and human rights violations. Repressive anti-protest legislation fuelled even more rage, with protesters clashing with police force in Kyiv.

Months of protests led the Ukrainian Parliament to vote to topple Mr Yanukovych who had already fled the country and claimed the vote was illegal. Russia condemned the move as “coup”.

In response, pro-Russian, counterrevolutionary demonstrations broke out in the east and south of Ukraine. While armed pro-Russian rebels took control of government facilities and declared Donetsk and Luhansk separate states, Russia invaded and eventually annexed Crimea, setting off the Donbas War.

Almost a decade after the war started, Ukrainians and Russian forces are engaged in fierce fighting in the same Eastern region of Donbas – each side trying to cling to pieces of territory.

It has given rise to conflicting statements about troops’ advances in the cities of Bakhmut Vuhledar and Lyman, with Russia and Ukraine claiming control over the strategic city.

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Ukraine’s outgoing Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said his country is anticipating a new wave of Russian offensives later this month, which officials fear could come from the south, east and northwest.

In a speech celebrating the 80th anniversary of Russia’s victory over Germany at Stalingrad – now known as Volgograd, Putin warned the Russian Federation has the military capacity to respond.

He said: “Those who hope to defeat Russia on the battlefield do not understand, it seems, that a modern war with Russia will be very different for them. We are not sending our tanks to their borders, but we have the means to respond. It won’t be limited to the use of armoured hardware. Everyone must understand this.”

According to the Telegram channel General SVR, which claims to be fed information by a Kremlin insider, Putin has been visited by doctors after becoming “weak and tired” at his speech in Volgograd.

Putin “did not have fun” while attending meetings and making public appearances while in the country, according to General SVR. “By evening, Putin was very tired and felt weak, doctors were invited to see him,” it reported.

“After the next course of therapy, the president has not yet come into shape, and it is not yet clear whether he will come at all.”

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