Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies will soon turn on him, a Russian military expert has suggested, analyzing a recent shift in rhetoric among the leader’s top peers.
In an interview with Ukraine’s Radio NV, Kyiv-based Russian military expert Oleg Zhdanov pointed to remarks made by two staunch allies of Putin, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Russian mercenary outfit, the Wagner Group.
The pair have publicly ridiculed Putin’s military amid a series of successful counteroffensives conducted by Kyiv in Ukraine’s south and northeast. Ukraine recaptured swathes of its territory in Kharkiv in early September, and now, its military is liberating a growing number of regions in Kherson, which Russia seized in March.
Public criticism of the Ukraine war and displays of public dissent are punishable in Russia under laws passed just weeks after the invasion began.
“At the beginning of this massive aggression, I said that Ramzan Kadyrov would be the main gravedigger of this Putin regime, which, in fact, is happening,” said Zhdanov, a reserve colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
“I do not think that the Kremlin approved the change in the rhetoric of the federal channels, gave permission for such statements by Kadyrov and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of private military companies of the Russian Federation. In my opinion, this is already a working propaganda machine.”
According to the military analyst, “the propaganda machine is turning against the Kremlin.”
“Today, the failure of the ‘special military operation’ is acknowledged on federal channels; they say, they built a rotten and corrupt system of government,” Zhdanov said, referring to an apparent shift in tone on Russian state TV regarding the conflict, as hosts and guests move to offer more dire assessments of the war.
“Yes, Putin’s name is still not mentioned today, but I think there is only one step left to that,” he said.
Kadyrov, responding to the news that Ukraine had liberated the key eastern supply hub of Lyman, suggested this week that Russia should consider using a small tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine in response.
The Chechen leader has also publicly criticized Russia’s top generals, including Russian colonel-general Oleksandr Lapin, saying that if it were up to him, he would demote Lapin, deprive him of his awards, and “send him to the frontline with a machine gun in his hands to wash away his shame with blood.”
Prigozhin praised Kadyrov for his remarks saying, “Ramzan—you rock man! All these b*****ds should be sent barefoot to the front with automatic guns.”
Zhdanov said he believes that the pair are acting in favor of Russia’s elite, “which, above all, will shake up the situation to overthrow Putin.”
“That is, the process of changing the political system in the Russian Federation begins,” he said.
On Tuesday, a Russian official who faces conscription under Putin’s partial mobilization decree told Newsweek that he believes the leader’s reign is now “closer to the end.”
Russia “has no chance of winning” the Ukraine war, said Dmitry Baltrukov, a municipal deputy for Smolninskoe in St. Petersburg who appealed to the country’s parliament last month to remove Putin from power on the charge of high treason over the Ukraine war.
“There is no Russian leadership, for them, this is the end of their power,” Baltrukov added.
Newsweek has contacted Russia’s foreign and defense ministries for comment.