Are Former KGB Officials Plotting A Coup Against Putin? – Reports suggest that rumors of a possible coup in Moscow are circulating. According to the rumors, former KGB generals and officials are exploring ways to oust Russian President Vladimir Putin from his leadership position over his failing invasion of Ukraine.
Russian security expert Andrew Soldatov discussed the rumors with The Center for European Policy Analysis.
“Does it matter? It matters a lot,” he said. “The Russian President has been bracing for a coup for some weeks as he has faced fierce criticism over his ‘special operation’ in Ukraine and he has purged around 150 of his spies over the constant failures.”
According to the latest reports, the Russian FSB security service is so unhappy about the Russian military’s lack of progress in Ukraine that it has reached out to several former army officials and generals. Among those contacted by FSB agents is the Siloviki group, which comprises former FSB officers who remain active in national politics. The group is believed to be one of the main drivers behind the rumored coup.
It comes as the relationship between the Russian president and his security service has become increasingly strained, even as he reallocated troops and resources to the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.
While a coup is possible, several mechanisms in place make it exceptionally difficult. Read our full report on how Putin has “coup-proofed” his regime here.
How Popular Is Putin Among Russian Citizens?
According to a Russian opinion poll from the Levada Center, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings have increased since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. Released on March 30, the survey showed Putin with an 80% approval rating among Russian voters.
It was the first poll conducted by the Levada Center since the invasion began on February 23.
That’s a remarkably different number than U.S. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings, which have remained consistently below 40% for the past several months.
And while the Kremlin’s control over the nation’s press could indicate that these polls are skewed, research has also shown that Putin’s high level of support among the Russian people is actually largely accurate.
In a research paper from 2018, researchers Timothy Frye, Scott Gehlbach, Kyle Marquardt and Ora Reuter argued that the Russian president’s approval ratings are largely accurate.
“We conclude that Putin’s approval ratings largely reflect the attitudes of Russian citizens,” the researchers wrote.
If the latest polls are accurate, it would likely make a coup against Putin much harder to pull off and convince the general public that it is a good idea. However, the Levada poll was performed in March, and since then, the Russian economy has increasingly struggled to cope with the impact of sweeping Western sanctions.
It may just be a matter of time before Putin’s popularity slips.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.