Putin’s inner circle ‘shrinking’ as paranoia grows, his biographer claims

Russian leader Vladimir Putin is running out of options – and friends – and it can’t be long before he’s deposed by Kremlin insiders, his biographer says.

Mark Galeotti, an academic who has written a number of books about Russia and Putin’s government, reckons the decision to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine could be the last straw for Putin’s former allies.

Putin’s health is rumoured to be failing, and video of a recent meeting with with his defence minister Sergei Shoigu seems to confirm those rumours. The Russian leader looks bloated, sitting hunched at the table, with one hand gripping the tabletop in an apparent effort to hide a tremor.

Unconfirmed reports say Putin is suffering from either thyroid cancer, or Parkinson’s Disease, or both.

It’s because he feels his life slipping away, says Galeotti, that Putin is impatient to complete what he sees as his historic mission to rebuild the old Russian empire.

“He is desperate for a triumph of some sort and he could decide to gamble everything on a roll of the nuclear dice,” Galeotti writes in the Daily Mail.

But even so-called “tactical” nukes designed to be deployed on the battlefield would have a devastating impact – doing at least as much damage as the primitive devices that levelled Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two – and almost certainly unite the entire world against Russia.

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Even Putin’s ally China would have no option but to take action against Russia if Putin tried to break the decades-old accords against using nuclear weapons.

But Putin has fewer and fewer advisers, with anyone who challenges his opinions being ignored.

He’s refusing to take part in many face-to-face meetings, reportedly because he’s paranoid about catching Covid-19, and has taken to ending Zoom meeting abruptly if he feels officials are telling him things he doesn’t want to hear.

Elvira Nabiullina, the governor of the Russia’s central bank, attempted to resign last month, saying that Western sanctions introduced to punish Russia for invading Ukraine were flushing the country’s economy “into the sewers”.

Putin simply rejected her resignation and terminated the call.

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Meanwhile, in recent weeks several high-ranking Russian oligarchs have died in mysterious circumstances and it's been suggested that they have been killed for criticising the attack on Ukraine, or for trying to take their millions out of the country.

Sergey Protosenya, Vladislav Avayev, Alexander Tyulakov and Leonid Shulman have all been found dead since the war on Ukraine began.

Former FSB colonel Gennady Gudkov saying they could well have been eliminated on Putin’s orders: “If we already understand that the regime is engaged in the elimination of its opponents and enemies then why will they not deal with those who are considered traitors who have fled the system."

Those deaths will be uppermost in the minds of Kremlin officials who want to unseat Putin. The knowledge that he could strike out against the plotters might scare them into nations, or it might spur them into swift action.

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