Russian President Vladimir Putin has been intent on quashing opposition in his country since the invasion of Ukraine started last month. Police in Russian cities have clamped down on protests in recent weeks, and the media has disseminated the Kremlin’s version of events. Putin also used a speech to hit out at those in Russia who have opposed the invasion. He branded opponents of the war “scum” and “traitors”.
The Russian President said: “The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and will simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth onto the pavement.”
It appears opposition to Mr Putin could also be growing in high places too, as Russia Expert at Chatham House Nikolai Petrov made a surprising claim that Putin could be assassinated.
He also said that the Russian President could be targeted by a member of his own family.
Mr Petrov said: “I believe that if there is an assassination attempt, that might come from a female.
“Maybe a member of his family, his mistress, his daughter, his ex-wife – somebody who knows him and could actually get close to him.
“The possibility (of assassination) is increasing.”
Recent events have left Putin fearing for his political future, as well as his life, according to Russia expert Fiona Hill.
The former US National Security Council official recently told NBC News that Putin is “paranoid” about a potential assassination attempt.
She said: “Any kind of loose talk about somebody taking him out, regime change – he believes we’re in that business anyway.
“He looks at what the US has done, he says it openly all the time – in Libya, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and many other places where we’ve intervened and he looks at that and thinks, I’m not going to let that happen here in Russia. He’s extremely paranoid about this.”
Further evidence that anger in Moscow is growing came this week as Vladimir Osechkin – a man wanted for his work exposing abuse in Russia’s prisons – claimed that he has spoken to a source within the Russian security service , the FSB, who claims there is discontent in the organisation.
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As Russian forces struggle to make progress on the ground in Ukraine, Mr Osechkin says Putin blames FSB officers for the botched operation.
Speaking to The Times, Mr Osechkin said: “For every week and every month that this war continues, the possibility of a rebellion by those in the security services increases.”
It appears the Russian President could be planning to scale back his army’s invasion of Ukraine.
As the Russian President’s troops suffered a series of setbacks, Moscow said the “special military operation” would now focus on the “main goal, the liberation of Donbas”.
Donbas is a region in Eastern Ukraine which Russia has now recognised as an independent republic.
The statement comes as reports claim Ukrainian soldiers are driving the Russians further back from the capital Kyiv.
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Western intelligence also suggested a Russian brigade commander, Colonel Medvechek, was deliberately run down and killed by his own troops.
Earlier this month, Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun told Express.co.uk that Russian forces were struggling to make progress near Kyiv, where she still remains.
She said: Urging the West to step in and provide more military support, she said: “Ukraine’s army has been kicking their a***, the Russian army is not as strong as it is meant to be, they are badly equipped, their morale is bad.
“It is not actually that strong an army – and compared to NATO’s armies, I don’t think Russia can stand in that fight.
“I know there is this nuclear threat everyone is mentioning, but I think it is overstated.
“After all, there are some less crazy people in Putin’s surroundings who won’t let that happen. Some people in Russian intelligence are providing information to the West and to Ukraine.”