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Putin’s Top Officials Now Believe the Ukraine War Is Lost

TOS-1A
TOS-1A firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The war in Ukraine is going badly for Russian President Putin. And now he may face a new threat thanks to this conflict: reports that Putin’s top officials think the war is lost. What does that mean for the embattled Russian leader? 

Putin’s Kremlin elite are increasingly opposed to the war in Ukraine, according to a series of interviews by The Guardian. 

In late February 2022, the Russian military said they’d be able to take control of Kyiv in just a matter of days. But 227 days later, the Russian forces have endured a series of disastrous defeats in Ukraine. 

Ukrainian forces recently pushed back the Russian military from thousands of square miles of territory in eastern Ukraine, prompting the Kremlin to launch a chaotic mobilization of reservists and civilians.

As a result, Putin’s top officials now believe the war in Ukraine is lost.

One well-connected Russian state journalist told the Guardian that “intense dread” has taken hold of much of the political elite, saying, “The higher you go, the more desperation you feel. There is general understanding now that the war can’t be won.”

Another journalist, Yevgenia Albats, a Russian investigative reporter and editor of the New Times who was recently forced out of Russia, also spoke to The Guardian and said her sources within the Russian administration suggest that estimated that at least 70% of top officials are opposed to the war.

The Washington Post also reported serious qualms among Putin’s aides and advisors. “Since the start of the occupation, we have witnessed growing alarm from a number of Putin’s inner circle,” an unnamed Western intelligence official told The Post.

“Our assessments suggest they are particularly exercised by recent Russian losses, misguided direction, and extensive military shortcomings,” it said.

“This whole system is built around a vozdh, a leader”

However, despite this widespread opposition to Putin and his shortcoming military mission, Albats has said that Putin is likely to see any formal threats against his power.

“For there to be a schism,” an organizational split, “people need to stop being afraid,” she said.

Putin’s elite inner circle mainly comprises former security and intelligence officials, many of whom he knows from his days in St Petersburg and at the KGB, the Soviet precursor to today’s security agencies reported Insider’s Tom Porter.

Political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin said, “This whole system is built around a vozdh, a leader. If you get rid of Putin, you have to be able to deliver quick results, but everyone knows that is not possible right now.”

But in Putin’s regime, factions and infighting are increasing. For example, Yevgeny Prigozhin — the founder of the Wagner Group, considered Putin’s unofficial de-facto private army — and the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov had declared war against the defense minister, Putin loyalist Sergei Shoigu, after a series of defeats in Ukraine, according to the Guardian.

“Putin is a very destructive personality. He will play the different factions off each other and see what the best outcome will be. Putin just wants to see what is best for him and the war in Ukraine,” a former defense ministry official told the Guardian.

Bethany Dawson is a news reporter on the UK news team based in London for Insider where this first appeared. She holds a BSc in Politics and Sociology and was previously a freelance journalist for publications such as The Independent, the BBC, The Times, VICE, Refinery29, Private Eye, The Big Issue and more. 

Written By

Bethany Dawson Bethany is a junior news reporter on the UK news team based in London.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Goran

    October 9, 2022 at 10:10 am

    The game can never be lost if the goals of the game are continuously redefined. In reality, Russia lost this war when Kyiv, unimpressed by that 40 mile long column of Russian equipment barreling towards it, and multipronged attack in other parts of the country, decided to take a stand. Ukraine won by managing to stay on its feet during that initial week, when it became evident that there will not be a regime change in Kyiv and Russia became destined to have tens of millions of some very pissed off Ukrainians on it’s western flank for decades to come.

    Whether they are in Lyman, Bakhmut and Mariupol, means little to the overall security concerns of Russia, Kharkiv for example is closer to Moscow than Kherson, and by a lot, yet controlling Kherson is portrayed as more important than controlling Kharkiv. Why would Putin’s propagandists insist on Russia’s claim over Kherson? Because they can’t get into Kharkiv. That’s it, there is no strategy, there is no military value, they just managed to get into Kherson, failed to do the same in Kharkiv and suddenly the war is about Kherson and the south.

    The strategy of Putin’s henchmen is that of a headless chicken, just running around in panic, spilling blood everywhere and hoping for the best. If the entire occupation force gets squeezed into half of Donetsk, they’ll claim that half of Donetsk was the original goal of the war. That’s why it’s pointless to talk about whether Putin can win, he lost, and he lost when he failed to take Kyiv.

  2. Steve

    October 9, 2022 at 10:25 am

    Reality is setting in to some that Putin has and continues to make terrible decisions. It’ll be interesting to see what his longevity breathing might be after a total humiliation by Ukraine.

    Does Putin still view himself in the same category as Peter the great? ROTFL

  3. Froike

    October 9, 2022 at 10:44 am

    LOL…Putin’s General Staff figure that out a Few Weeks Ago.

  4. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    October 9, 2022 at 12:28 pm

    Increasingly, the safety and economic security of the world at large are dependent on Putin being taken from power before his brutal desperation leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions more. Left to his own devices, he will not back down.

  5. Jacksonian Libertarian

    October 9, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    The pressure will continue to mount, and if that doesn’t force a political break. The military loss as the battle lines return to the “91” borders, will remove obstacles from anyone assuming power, delivering a peace, and blaming everything on Putin.

    In any case, every Authoritarian scumbag is watching Putin suffer for challenging the West, that’s a Big Win.

  6. Leidsegracht

    October 9, 2022 at 5:44 pm

    Goran, the value of Kherson is twofold, first it is a major port for the export of commodities including grain that is transported down the Dnipro River. Control of the river all the way to the Black Sea is important for the future economic viability of a Ukrainian state.

    Secondly, much of Crimea’s fresh water is supplied by a canal that begins upstream of Kherson. So the viability of a Russian occupied state in Crimea depends on having access to a freely flowing canal from the Dnipro and that means the Russians must control at least the left (west) bank of the Dnipro

  7. Gary Jacobs

    October 10, 2022 at 10:56 am

    Leidsegracht,

    You raise good points, but your framing of Kherson’s value as a port is to Ukraine. Not Russia. Technically Goran is right that there is no military value for Russia holding Kherson City. Russia seeking to hold Kherson City’s port is simply as a spoiler of Ukraine being a viable country as Russia doesnt control much of anything upriver. And much of what the do on the east/south bank is basically a front line well within range of all manner of Ukrainian fire.

    On the Crimean Canal, in general you are correct about the value, but it’s near Nova Kakhovka on the south/east bank of the river. Not on the west bank…it’s about 60km from Kherson City.

    There was also a bridge that crosses over the dam in Nova Kakhovka, but the Ukrainians have used precision weapons to drop the bridge without destroying the dam or the power station. It’s a very short distance that could actually allow for temporary military bridging equipment of the kind that the Germans are about to supply to Ukraine so that the Ukrainians military can cross there.

    It will be interesting to see how the next phase of the offensive in Kherson proceeds. Both Kherson City and Nova Kakhovka are important to Ukraine. As well as the Beryslov bridgehead the Russians have just on the other side of the river from Nova Kakhovka.

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