‘Russian nationalists could see Putin replaced by more ruthless leader’

Vladimir Putin could be pushed out by ‘nationalists’ who could replace him with someone equally or more ‘ruthless’, a Russian politics expert has explained.

Dr Paul Flenley, senior lecturer in international politics at the University of Portsmouth, explained that the Russian president could be facing challenges from a number of different factions – including war-hungry nationalist groups and frustrated regional leaders.

To make things worse, Dr Flenley explained that Putin has become increasingly “isolated”, partly due to Covid. Meanwhile, more Russian leaders are getting frustrated by how poorly the war in Ukraine has been going.

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He reckoned that nationalist players in the Russian political set-up could in theory get annoyed at how badly the war in Ukraine is going and look for a change.

“If he's not being resolute enough, it could be that they might decide on a leader who's more effective, someone like [Nikolai] Patrushev, who has the same nationalist rhetoric as Putin.”

This might sound like an appealing option for all hoping the war in Ukraine can come to a peaceful end, but Dr Flenley warned this might not be as good as it sounds.

“It could be that people will turn against Putin himself, but it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get the kind of nice liberal alternative who will bring a resolution to the war.

“It could be you'll have somebody who wants an even more ruthless conduct of a military campaign.”

But it isn’t only from nationalist powerful elites that Putin could be facing challenges.

He explained that Putin was also facing pressures from Russia’s large and diverse country, where many people's lives exist a long way away from the political capital of Moscow. “There are real problems, that you'll get unrest in the regions.

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“Because don't forget Russia is more than 80 different regions and Putin has to keep the regional elites happy.”

He explained history said problems from the ‘regions’ had been critical in the past.

“[It] has happened in the past in Russia where economic problems can cause unrest in the regions.

“it hasn't happened yet [since the war in Ukraine], but they could imagine regionally governors deciding, ‘Well, this is Moscow's war. What are we doing sending boys to fight in this hopeless campaign?’

“That's a possible scenario, that you get unrest not in Moscow itself but outside Moscow.

But Dr Flenley felt that Putin is a savvy enough operator to navigate the situation – probably by throwing someone else on the fire.

“I think Putin is probably clever enough to try to get to try to survive by possibly scapegoating the Minister of Defence.

“One of the reasons why he's stayed in power is because he'd been very good at keeping factions together and dealing with the different factions.

“The problem is,” he added, “obviously he's isolated himself to an extent in the last few years partly through the COVID epidemic.”

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