A military coup is becoming a possibility in Russia as the war in Ukraine continues, President Vladimir Putin’s former speechwriter has revealed.
Speaking to CNN’s Erin Burnett, speechwriter turned political analyst Abbas Gallyamov said that as Russian losses mount in Ukraine and the country experiences hardship brought about by Western sanctions, Russians will look for someone to blame.
“The Russian economy is deteriorating. The war is lost. There are more and more dead bodies returning to Russia, so Russians will be coming across more difficulties and they’ll be trying to find explanation why this is happening, looking around to the political process and they’ll be answering themselves: ‘Well, this is because our country is governed by an old tyrant, an old dictator,'” Gallyamov said, referring to Putin. At this moment, I think a military coup will become possible.”
That moment may come in the next 12 months, he said.
“So in one year when the political situation changes and there’s a really hated and unpopular president at the head of the country and the war is really unpopular, and they need to shed blood for this, at this moment, a coup becomes a real possibility,” he added.
Gallyamov also said he believes Putin may cancel presidential elections scheduled to be held in March 2024.
“Judging by his actions, when he is escalating on something without necessity, he might really cancel the elections. Without victory over Ukraine, he’ll face difficulty with the Russians. Russians don’t need him if he’s not strong. He might really declare the martial law and cancel the elections,” Gallyamov said.
Wagner fighters were often sent into battle with little direction, and the company’s treatment of reluctant recruits was ruthless, Andrei Medvedev told CNN’s Anderson Cooper from Norway’s capital Oslo, where he is seeking asylum after crossing that country’s arctic border from Russia.
“They would round up those who did not want to fight and shoot them in front of newcomers,” he alleges. “They brought two prisoners who refused to go to fight and they shot them in front of everyone and buried them right in the trenches that were dug by the trainees.”
The 26-year-old, who says he previously served in the Russian military, joined Wagner as a volunteer. He crossed into Ukraine less than 10 days after signing his contract in July 2021, serving near Bakhmut, the frontline city in the Donetsk region. The mercenary group has emerged as a key player in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Medvedev said he reported directly to the group’s founders, Dmitry Utkin and Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin. He refers to Prigozhin as “the devil.” If he was a Russian hero, he would have taken a gun and run with the soldiers,” Medvedev said.
Prigozhin responded Tuesday to CNN’s request for comment in a statement that was largely sarcastic in tone via his press service. He called the news organisation an “open enemy” before insisting Wagner is an “exemplary military organisation that complies with all the necessary laws and rules of modern wars.”
White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby on Monday defended the Biden administration’s decision not to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, pointing instead to the aid the US is providing, including Abrams tanks.
“What I can tell you is that there’s a lot of capability that is being sent, and will be sent in the coming weeks and months,” Kirby told CNN. “The kinds of capabilities that we know will be critical to helping Ukrainians again in the fighting now in the wintertime, as well as the kind of fighting that we expect that they’re going to be doing in the spring.”
Kirby said he believes the decision, announced last week, to send Abrams tanks to the region wasn’t one that was made too late, even amid reports of Russia gaining territory in eastern Ukraine.
“The decision on the tanks — and it wasn’t just the US, it was the Germans as well, and the Brits before that — was really designed to help Ukraine get ahead of the fighting that we think … everybody’s going to see come spring,” he said. “So, this was actually one of those cases where we are trying to forecast the kinds of needs that Ukraine is going to require when the weather turns better — and we can expect that the Russians will try to go on the offensive then.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has sought fighter jets to help sustain his war effort against Russia. Biden has consistently said the planes aren’t on the table, even as he has given aid in other areas.
A married couple in the southwestern Russian city of Krasnodar was arrested Sunday for professing anti-war sentiments during a private conversation in a restaurant, according to the independent Russian monitoring group OVD-Info.
OVD-Info told CNN that Aleksey Ovchinnikov was sentenced to 15 days in prison for petty hooliganism and his wife, Olesya Ovchinnikova, received 1,000 rubles ($14) fine.
Olesya Ovchinnikova is also facing charges for discrediting the Russian army, according to reporting from local media 93.RU, citing her lawyer.
CNN has sought comment from the couple’s lawyer. The restaurant where the incident is said to have taken place, “Na Drovoh,” would not comment to CNN.
Crackdown on anti-war sentiments: OVD-Info said at least 61 cases related to expressing anti-war views were initiated in Russia in 2022 on the charges of justification of terrorism on the internet, with 26 leading to sentencing so far.
In another notable case, 19-year-old Olesya Krivtsova was charged over social media posts that authorities say discredit the Russian army and justify terrorism. She posted an Instagram story about the explosion on the Crimean bridge in October that also criticized Russia for invading Ukraine, according to Russian officials.
Last week, for example, Biden announced he would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, despite top US officials saying previously the heavy-duty vehicles were a poor fit for the country’s military.
Speaking on the White House South Lawn, Biden also said he wasn’t sure whether he would visit Europe next month for the first anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine. In response to a separate question, Biden said he was planning to visit Poland, but wasn’t sure when.
CNN reported last week the White House was exploring the possibility of a Biden visit to Europe to mark 12 months since Russia invaded Ukraine.
- A CNN report