As Ukrainian forces continue to make gains against the Russian army, whispered complaints about Vladimir Putin about the war and efforts to avoid his birthday falling on a Friday have been flying around the Kremlin.
“It quickly became clear that we were better off not having any celebrations now – it’s not the right time,” a source close to the Kremlin told Meduza. “Governors are even considering cutting this year’s [winter] holiday celebrations; Nobody has extra money lying around.”
It is “a sensible idea” not to celebrate Putin’s birthday across Russia, an administration source told Meduza. Although many close to Putin fear him, they have lost respect for him, another source said.
“People around him are scared the shit,” a source close to the Russian government told the outlet. “But it’s fear without respect.”
In some cases, Putin himself has begun to receive some harsh criticism from his inner circle about the direction he has been taking the war.
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“Every 48 hours another dumpster burns – nobody really understands what’s going on,” a source close to the Kremlin told Meduza. “Those responsible for the actual implementation of decisions only find out about them at the last minute.”
A member of Putin’s inner circle has expressed disapproval of the way the war is being waged directly against Putin, according to information made available to President Joe Biden in recent weeks. The Washington Post reported.
Ramzan Kadyrov, a key Putin ally and leader of Chechnya, and Evgeniy Prigozhin, head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner group, have also publicly denounced Putin’s war plans.
The mounting disarray in Moscow comes after a series of strikes in Ukraine that have left the Russian military out of control. In the last month alone, Ukrainians have launched counter-offensives against Russian forces and have even been able to recapture territories that Russia illegally annexed to claim as Russian. The Kremlin even admitted this week that Moscow is not sure where the regions’ borders lie, despite attempting to annex four regions in Ukraine and claim them as Russian.
The stumble has led Putin into a corner where he has not achieved his grand goals despite the war dragging on for more than seven months. And although he has initiated a partial mobilization to try to replace those lost on the battlefield, he has alienated anti-war Russians, prompted a massive exodus from the country, and even failed to adequately prepare conscripts for the conflict.
“He doesn’t know how to lose,” a source told Meduza of Putin. “And most importantly, he doesn’t know how to admit he’s losing.”
Putin has also stopped relying on his advisers to gauge the prudence of his plans, a source said.
“He voiced scenarios that he thought were likely and asked, ‘What if we do that? What will be the consequences? What if we do it like this? Then what?'” the source said. “But that stopped.”
Concerns about the course of the war have increased among Russian officials in recent days. The chairman of the defense committee of the lower house of parliament Andrei Kartapolov publicly lashed out at Putin this week, warning him that he and the Kremlin should stop applauding Ukraine’s losses as if Russia is winning and stop repeating Russian defeats in to gloss over Ukraine.
“People know. Our people are not stupid,” Kartapolov said. “Stop lying.”
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Since February, Russia has lost 61,680 soldiers in the war, according to a tally released Friday by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Biden himself has begun to speak openly about what it would be like for Putin to lose power in Russia, as the Russian president has been threatening nuclear saber-rattling for weeks.
It is the “first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis that we have the threat of a nuclear weapon, if things actually continue as they are,” Biden said Thursday. “We’re trying to figure out what Putin’s branch is… Where does he find himself in a position where he not only loses face but loses significant power in Russia?”
His comments came just a week after Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy intelligence chief, warned that the risk of Russia using a tactical nuclear weapon was “very high”.
The United States sees no reason to adjust America’s nuclear stance and has seen no evidence from Russia that Moscow is preparing to use nuclear weapons in the near future, the State Department clarified Friday.
“The President’s comments … underscore how seriously the administration takes these threats,” said Vedant Patel, deputy chief spokesman for the State Department. “This kind of irresponsible rhetoric should not come from a leader of a nuclear-armed state.”
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