According to a Ukrainian intelligence official, the Kremlin is looking for a successor to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid growing dissatisfaction with the war in Ukraine.
On February 24, 2022, Putin launched his “special military operation” against Ukraine with the aim of achieving a quick victory against the Eastern European country, which was then considered to be militarily much weaker. However, the stronger than expected defense of Kiev, bolstered by Western military aid, weakened Russia’s military achievements.
After more than a year of fighting, Russia’s invasion continues to stagnate, with Ukraine retaking thousands of square miles of formerly occupied territory last fall. Fighting remains concentrated in the easternmost part of the country, where Russia’s attempts to seize control of Bakhmut have slowed in recent days.
Russia has generally stood behind Putin throughout the war, although there have been signs that amid mounting casualties some individuals have grown weary. The widely condemned war prompted the West to impose sanctions that weakened Moscow’s economy and has resulted in the deaths of more than 160,000 Russian soldiers, according to Ukraine.
Amid growing dissatisfaction, Ukraine now believes the Kremlin is looking for Putin’s successor.
Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence service, recently said the search comes as “Putin’s circle is narrowing.” According to Yusov, Putin is becoming “more and more toxic”, even within Russia’s borders.
“There is growing dissatisfaction with what is happening in the Kremlin,” Yusov said. “The outlook, particularly the geopolitical catastrophe of the Putin regime, is viewed more and more bleakly. So the search for a Putin successor is already underway.”
He added that Putin is no longer involved in the selection of his eventual successor. Yusov’s remarks were first posted on Twitter on Saturday and translated by Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister. Yussow did not name any potential candidates to succeed Putin.
Russia has not commented publicly on Yusov’s comments, and it remains unclear whether or not replacing Putin would solve problems within the Russian military. Some critics blame Putin for classifying the invasion as a “special military operation” rather than a “war,” thereby limiting the military’s ability to launch a full-scale mobilization.
But experts point to other problems for the stalled invasion, including challenges in retaining well-motivated soldiers, particularly in the cooler winter months, and problems with military leadership.
Questions about Putin’s future also surfaced after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin on Friday for war crimes. While Putin is unlikely to be arrested, the warrant will severely limit his ability to travel as most districts recognize the ICC’s sovereignty.
news week emailed the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.