Putin: Ex MI6 chief warns ‘careful what you wish for’
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Former chief of MI6 Sir Alex Younger has warned the West they need to be “very careful what we wish for” because many of those in line to replace Vladimir Putin are part of the “arguably fascistic right-wing”. Speaking on BBC Newsnight, Sir Alex said Putin is “in danger of being outflanked” by the more “nationalistic” members of Russia’s political and military elite as the Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to push back his soldiers and members of the Russian public rebel against conscription. In further signs of dissidence, the Russian secret service said on Wednesday that it had arrested five Russians over the bombing of the Kerch Strait bridge into Crimea, an act which Putin had blamed on Ukraine.
Sir Alex said: “I think, to go back to this speech he made a couple of weeks ago, the look on his face and the stuff he announced, Putin, and this is the great irony, is in danger of being outflanked by the very political constituency he created.
“[And that is] The chauvinistic, nationalistic, arguably fascistic right wing that was his support base and is now castigating him for not going far and hard enough.
“These [annexations], which he did not want to introduce because he knows how counterproductive they could prove to be, are entirely for a domestic audience designed to neuter that aspect of the politics.”
Asked if it was possible Putin could be replaced by someone on the extreme right, Sir Alex said: “Yes, so we need to be very careful what we wish for her.
“I think in due course that is what will happen. He will be replaced, but from critics on the right as opposed to the centre.”
Following the rapid counter-offensives of Ukraine that began at the start of September, opposition within Russia towards the invasion has grown.
In the first stages of the “special military operation”, even following the initial retreat from Kyiv, opinion polls suggested that Putin’s favorability was increasing among the population.
But some of the Kremlin’s most avid supporters have, of late, criticised the Russian war effort.
Alexey Slobodenyuk, the head of media for a Russian mercenary group fighting in Ukraine, was brutally pulled from his care by a special branch of the National Guard of Russia, known for their unwavering loyalty to Vladimir Putin, and detained last week over criticism of Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu.
According to US-based Ukrainian analysts, Slobodenyuk had been “operating a dozen Telegram channels including ‘Release the Kraken’ (282k subscribers) & ‘Scanner’ (150k subscribers) – an ‘anti-corruption’ project which has openly called for murder of foreign secretary Sergei Lavrov, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, and others.”
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the wealthy financier who is behind the Wagner group, himself called for senior officers to be sent “barefoot with machine guns to the front lines” in light of recent defeats.
More worryingly, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, has urged the Russian president to employ “more drastic measures” after criticising the war effort.
In mid-September, he added: “I’m no strategist, unlike the Ministry of Defence, but mistakes have been allowed to happen.
“If today or tomorrow changes are not made to the strategy of how the special operation is conducted, I will feel obliged to speak to the Ministry of Defence and the country’s leadership and explain the reality of the situation on the ground to them.”
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These levels of criticism are untypical of anti-Kremlin voices, let alone pro-Putin, and pro-war advocates, and suggest spiralling confidence in Russia’s ruling elite.
And in further evidence of a power struggle around Putin, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Wednesday that it had detained five Russians and three citizens of Ukraine and Armenia over the explosion that damaged the Crimea Bridge last Saturday, Interfax reported.
The FSB said the explosion was organised by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry, and its director Kyrylo Budanov.
Ukraine has not officially confirmed its involvement in the blast, but some Ukrainian officials have celebrated the damage. The explosion on the twelve-mile-long bridge destroyed one section of the road bridge, temporarily halting road traffic. It also destroyed several fuel tankers on a train heading towards the annexed peninsula from neighbouring southern Russia.
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