VLADIMIR Putin’s once undeniable control of Russia appears to be over as the tyrant is now locked in a struggle for survival following the Wagner Group uprising.
The taciturn, paranoid and likely trembling Russian leader has not been seen for over 32 hours and experts warn the Kremlin’s “poisonous spiders” are out for blood.
In the last terrifying 24 hours, Putin’s longtime ally has led an armed uprising against his master, threatening Russia’s very existence, according to Vlad.
“This is treason…this is a stab in the back of the troops and the people of Russia,” the tyrant raged desperately on Saturday morning.
In a clear admission of his own fragility, Putin added: “A blow like this was dealt to Russia in 1917 when the country was fighting in the First World War. Victory was stolen from us.”
The huddled Russian leader began closing hatches and moving his guards and tanks to defend the capital while his presidential plane was seen fleeing to St. Petersburg.
At the eleventh moment, Putin was forced to retract his earlier claims to “smash” and “punish” the mutineers, instead offering them amnesty and their leader a safe path to exile in Belarus.
Now experts say the Russian leader is emerging from the attempted coup shattered, weakened and exposed.
And it still remains a mystery as to where Putin is, as he has remained absent and decidedly silent since the fateful agreement was struck to call off the revolt.
Now he may be facing a leadership crisis, and plenty of wolves are waiting in the wings, ready to carve their way to power.
The top four Kremlin power brokers who could seize the opportunity to overthrow Putin include Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Nikolai Patrushev, and spy chiefs Alexander Bortnikov and Sergei Naryshkin.
“Putin is not the Peter the Great he thought he was a few weeks ago,” Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon told The Sun Online.
“Where is Putin going now? He was exposed as a weak man and not the strong man that has kept him in power for two decades.”
In the Kremlin, the retired British Army officer warns: “They are all like poisonous spiders trying to kill each other.”
“These are just gangsters, it’s gangster warfare, but on a strategic level.”
He added: “As for Putin himself, the glass ceiling has been broken.”
“When the Russian state cannot prevent 25,000 men from marching on Moscow, it really shows how broken the Putin regime is.”
Who could replace a weakened Vlad?
Putin’s iron grip on Russia is faltering, and once-loyal Kremlin cronies could spring out of the shadows and take the top job.
The four who could take over:
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin
Should the tyrant fall, the silent prime minister would automatically take over from Putin
The 57-year-old technocrat suddenly came to power in 2020 after heading the Federal Tax Service
He is rumored to have a huge hideaway real estate empire
The 71-year-old is another serious contender and ally of Putin and secretary of Russia’s Security Council
Previously, from 1999 to 2008, he was director of the FSB
He met Putin when both were in the KGB and the two became close, with Vlad rewarding him with his prestigious new role after becoming president
Patrushev is accused of involvement in a series of deadly apartment bombings in Russia in 1999 that killed around 300 civilians, with Putin blaming “Chechen separatists”.
He is also believed to have authorized the 2006 assassination of FSB whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko in London
Putin’s secret service chief, Naryshkin, is head of the foreign intelligence service (SVR), and the experienced spy probably also has his eye on the presidency
He was one of the main developers of the conspiracy that the Ukrainian government was full of Nazis and is an old KGB buddy of Vlad’s
He has long been considered Putin’s successor and is the director of the FSB
He worked in the secret police from 1975 to 2004 before joining the spy agency and quickly rising through the ranks
Under his leadership, the FSB has been accused of destroying opposition parties, the free press and civil rights groups
He initiated the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and was subsequently sanctioned by the EU
Keir Giles, a Chatham House Russia expert, said: “Putin is emerging from this crisis dramatically weakened, the mystique of his power lost.”
He told The Sun Online: “It sets a dangerous precedent that you can challenge the Russian Federation with a force and get away with it.”
Giles said the deal between Putin and Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin made “no sense”.
“You should be confused. I can’t tell you what’s going on, it doesn’t make sense.”
“The deal was not in the interest of either party.”
However, he added: “The next 24 to 48 hours will be crucial.”
In a speech on CBS News, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken agreed that the uprising had exposed “real cracks” and was a “direct challenge” to Putin.
However, Blinken said it was “too early” to speculate about the aftermath, although he described the riot as “extraordinary”.
“This raises profound questions, it shows real cracks.”
Priogchin’s uprising began Saturday morning after an arrest warrant was issued for the Wagner boss – a former close ally of Putin.
The billionaire – known as “Putin’s cook” – has been locked in an increasingly acrimonious argument with the Russian military over its failure to support his mercenaries in Ukraine.
Wagner troops stormed across the border from Ukraine and captured the cities of Rostov and Voronezh – including the headquarters of Russian military operations.
His forces then made their way north, shooting down six Russian military helicopters and one plane en route, while Vlad’s forces hastily fortified Moscow.
And when the convoy got within 120 miles of the capital – Putin’s regime appeared to have only hours left – they stopped.
Priogzhin then suddenly announced by telegram that the rebellion was over.
In a stunning show of weakness, Russia insisted it had dropped all criminal charges against Prigozhin – and he and his men could leave the country as long as the warlord left Belarus.
The exact details of the “deal” remain unclear – and observers have warned that this crisis is far from over.