Three months into Vladimir Putin’s bloody “special operation” in Ukraine, his own men in the Kremlin are reportedly discussing who will replace him.
That’s according to new reporting by the independent news outlet Meduza, which cited several sources close to the Russian presidential administration who said officials are increasingly fed up with Putin personally.
Some of Putin’s own allies within the Kremlin walls have reportedly floated the idea of Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin becoming his successor, or former President Dmitry Medvedev, who is now the deputy chairman of the Security Council. Sergei Kirienko, the first deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration, was also said to have been discussed as a contender.
“It’s not about them wanting to prepare a plot and overthrow Putin right now. But there is an understanding, or a desire, that in the fairly foreseeable future he will not run the country,” one source was quoted saying.
“There are probably almost no [members of the elite] who are satisfied with Putin. [The business community] and many members of the government are unhappy that the president started the war without thinking about the scale of sanctions—it’s impossible to live with such sanctions,” another source close to the Kremlin told Meduza.
“The problems [in Russia due to the war] are already evident, and in the middle of the summer they will just come pouring down from all directions: transportation, medicine, even agriculture. Nobody thought about such a scale [of impacts],” another source said.
The discontent is said to be shared among both those close to Putin who want the war to continue, and those who would rather seek a way out.
But, according to Meduza, Putin himself is still willfully blind, insisting that the country’s growing economic problems have nothing to do with the war. And even those officials who have been discussing potential successors in private know the only way for Putin’s departure is if his health—which has been at the center of rampant rumors about terminal illness in recent months—takes a major turn for the worse. (Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence chief on Tuesday reiterated claims that Putin is suffering from cancer in addition to other “serious illnesses,” but he said there’s no hope “Putin will die tomorrow.”) As one source told Meduza, that is why “people are sputtering but they continue to work and put the country on a war footing.”
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, signaled on Tuesday that Moscow is fully prepared for its war in Ukraine to drag on.
“We are not chasing deadlines,” he said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Arguments and Facts. “All the goals set by the president of Russia will be fulfilled. There is no other way, since the truth, including historical truth, is on our side,” he said.
Even the high-profile resignation of a top Russian diplomat who decried the Kremlin’s “warmongering” this week has done nothing to sway Moscow from its bloody war in Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday largely shrugged off the departure of Boris Bondarev, the counselor for the Russian mission to the United Nations in Geneva.
In comments to the Interfax news agency, Peskov said Bondarev’s resignation means he is “against us.”
“He condemns the actions of the Russian leadership, and the actions of the Russian leadership are supported by almost the entire population of our country,” Peskov said.