Putin disappears as allies ask why rebels got so close to Moscow.
has disappeared from public view since pleading with Russians not to back a coup as his propagandists questioned why rebels were able to get so close to Moscow.
Kremlin officials have insisted that Putin is working in his office, although they said he would not be appearing on television to reassure Russians that he now had the situation under control. For More Infoemation….
“No new addresses by the president are planned today or tonight,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said late on Saturday evening after announcing a deal that ended the armed rebellion.
On Sunday, in his only communication with the public, Putin appeared in a pre-recorded television interview saying that all his focus was on the success of the “special operation” in Ukraine.
Analysts said the leadership vacuum added to the sense that the Russian president had been weakened by the peace deal struck with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the mutinous Wagner Group leader who sent his soldiers to within 150 miles of the Russian capital.
Even Putin’s most loyal propagandists have started to question his authority.
“If tank columns are advancing, why are they not being stopped?
Vladimir Solovyov said during his regular Saturday evening radio and TV broadcast. “We need a layer of defence that we can put on high alert if there is an invasion of Russia.”
Putin has relied on his propagandists to fortify the Russian public since he ordered his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and Mr Solovyov’s warning to his millions of listeners highlights the sense of chaos in the country.
Tsargrad TV, a nationalist media unit that has been a strong supporter of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, went even further.
“Politically, the balance of existing forces has already been broken,” it said in an editorial on its website. “The notorious ‘Kremlin towers’ are wobbling. Some people may have to leave.”
The new level of unpredictability and chaos in Russia, which controls the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, should worry the West, said analysts.
Edward Lucas a senior adviser at the Centre for European Policy Analysis told Top News Planet Radio 4 that Britain should be worried about who follows Putin into the Kremlin.
“We face perhaps a decade or more of dealing with a deeply dangerous and unpredictable Russia without even the sort of superficial certainty we have of having Putin in power,” he said.
On Saturday morning,
Putin published a video address to Russians from the Kremlin vowing to put down the “treachery” of Prigozhin’s rebellion. Since then, however, only silence.
Instead, Kremlin-controlled television channels broadcast “exclusive footage” of Putin that turned out to be a re-run of his speech on Saturday shot from a different angle and a soft interview filmed earlier in the week in which the Russian leader talked about boosting weapons production.
Sam Greene, a professor of Russian politics at King’s College London, said that Putin’s weakness in the face of rebellion will be the only conversation in households across Russia.
“This whole episode may have punctured the air of inevitability that has kept him aloft for the past 23 years,” he said. “Previously unimaginable things, like a change of leadership, may become more plausible.”
The sight of fighters loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin leader of Chechnya, pledging to save the southern Russian city of Rostov after it had been captured by Wagner mercenaries also dented Putin’s aura, analysts said.
“Many in the elite will personally blame Putin for the fact that everything went so far,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the Russia-focused consultancy R.Politik. “We underestimated Prigozhin, but we have also clearly overestimated Putin. This is a huge blow to him.”
This humiliation will be intensified for Putin because he had to rely on Alexander Lukashenko the president of Belarus to broker a peace deal with Prigozhin.
Putin regards Mr Lukashenko as a boorish farm boy and treats Belarus as a Russian vassal state. Now he was leaning on him for help to keep control of the Kremlin.
Escalation is now ‘the only option’
Prof Nikolai Petrov a senior research fellow at Chatham House said that after this series of blows Putin would be looking for a way to demonstrate his strength.
“There remains only the option of escalation, which means not only raising the stakes in the war, but also accelerated transformation of the regime,” he said.
And this shift in power in Russia, the fracturing of Kremlin prestige under Putin since his failed invasion of Ukraine last year, was highlighted in Rostov on Saturday night.
Video footage showed people in the centre of the city shaking hands with Wagner fighters and thanking them before the mercenaries withdrew, as ordered.
When regular Russian police officers moved back in, people waved Wagner flags in their faces and booed.