Putins war will cause fighting between elite groups in Russia: He will disappear

Ukraine: Vladimir Putin launches missile in warning

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This week Putin declared a victory in Mariupol, which has been under near-constant bombardment by Russia since it invaded Ukraine. The Russian President claimed the besieged port city was now liberated and ordered his troops to blockade the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance fighters. The US disputed that devastated Mariupol had fallen, saying that Putin’s claims to have liberated the city were “disinformation”.

As questions remain over how the eight-week conflict will end, an expert has now mapped out how Putin could “disappear”.

Professor Nikolai Petrov, a senior research fellow on the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, told Express.co.uk that the crippling effects of international sanctions against Russia over the war may lead to his eventual downfall.

He argued that as Russia’s financial isolation becomes worse, the country’s powerful business elites will vie for their shrinking piece of the economy.

He said: “They will fight against each other and it will destabilise the system.

“It will not be an uprising against Putin or at least it will not start as such.

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“But it will be their fight, leading to the further weakening of the regime.

“And finally, it could lead to Putin’s disappearance as the supreme arbiter who is providing this balance between all major elite groups.”

The powerful Russian figures who are starting to feel the pinch of the sanctions include arms suppliers and media moguls, according to Prof Petrov.

The expert claimed that tensions are ramping up among Russia’s influential group of elite business figures, who find themselves increasingly forced to compete against each other.

He said: “The pie is shrinking in a very essential way.

“And pieces of this pie, which are given to all major elite clans, should become smaller as well.

“They will see that their neighbour is getting more or is losing less than themselves.

“The tension is between these major elite groups and this is the fight for survival.

“This is not just political ideas, but in order to survive, they need to keep their piece of pie as big as possible.”

He added: “This will be very problematic for Putin, to keep the balance between the major elite groups in this environment.”

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As Putin declared Mariupol to be liberated this week, the Kremlin released a bizarre, televised chat between him and his defence minister, Sergei Shoigu.

In the despot’s rare public appearance, he can be seen sitting slouched and gripping the table he and Shoigu are sitting at, leading some observers to speculate about his health.

In the conversation, Putin ordered Shoigu to call off a planned Russian assault on the Azovstal steelworks and instead seal it shut.

The Russian leader said it was unnecessary for his troops to storm the industrial complex, where hundreds of Ukrainians are sheltering in an underground network of tunnels.

He told Shoigu: “There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities.

“Block off this industrial area so that a fly cannot not pass through.”

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has called for the evacuation of the civilians under the steelworks, which it says include children.

Those trapped are said to have almost no food, water or medicine.

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