Vladimir Putin has been confronted by one of his inner circle about his handling of the failed war in Ukraine, US intelligence said.
The insider complained to Putin about ‘mismanagement of the war effort’ and ‘mistakes’ made by those running the campaign, it is claimed.
It is the clearest indication yet of resentment among Russia’s elite over the war and the first evidence that Putin has been directly confronted about it.
Meanwhile, Russian business leaders linked to Moscow’s political class said they described the situation inside the Kremlin as being at a “breaking point” and said fighting will soon break out if the tide of war continues to flow in Ukraine’s direction.
The news emerged after Ukraine scored a series of combat victories over Russia, forcing Putin to announce a deeply unpopular mobilization to support the front line, annex occupied territories and threaten any intervenors with nuclear weapons.
Vladimir Putin has been directly confronted over ‘mismanagement and mistakes’ being made in Ukraine by one of his inner circle, US intelligence report says
A Russian tank explodes after being hit by mortar fire somewhere in Ukraine as Putin’s forces are pushed back in the north and south of the country
The information was included in a security brief sent to President Joe Biden and shared with other senior officials before being leaked to Washington Post.
While the Post does not report the name of the person who confronted Putin, it adds that the name was included in the card shown to Biden and others.
The Post spoke separately to members of the Russian business elite to get their impressions and learned that — while officials are not yet in open revolt — discontent has nearly reached boiling point.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, was asked about reports that an official had confronted Putin and denied that any kind of challenge had taken place.
He acknowledged that disagreements were taking place at the highest level, but tried to play them off as ‘working arguments’.
“Some people think we should do things differently, but it’s all part of the normal working process,” he said.
Putin is now in the eighth month of his war in Ukraine, having failed to achieve any of the goals he set himself at the beginning.
An ambitious shock-and-awe attack on Kiev turned into a spectacular failure as Russian forces met stiff resistance, bogged down and were picked off.
A Ukrainian soldier inspects a destroyed convoy of vehicles believed to have been used by Russian forces trying to flee the city of Izyum, which Kyiv has since captured
A Ukrainian flag flies over a destroyed house near Izyum after it was liberated by Kiev’s men
After suffering heavy losses in some of their most elite units, Putin’s generals ordered a retreat and announced that their true goal was to capture the Donbas – Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.
During the summer, Russian troops managed to capture Luhansk Oblast, but have only partially captured Donetsk – which together make up Donbas.
As the offensive there slowed to a stalemate, Ukraine launched two counteroffensives: one in the south against the city of Kherson and another in the north near Kharkiv.
Both have paid dividends. In Kharkiv, Ukraine managed to beat down Russian troops fleeing in chaos – taking heavy casualties and leaving behind large amounts of equipment and ammunition.
According to the latest estimates, Russia is now the largest supplier of weapons to Ukraine, thanks in large part to the offensive, which dwarfs all other allies combined.
In Kherson, the advance has been slower and more expensive, but this week a breakthrough in Russian lines was achieved that saw troops fall back about 12 miles.
Unlike the chaotic retreat from Kharkiv, this withdrawal was more orderly and came with fewer losses – both in men and equipment – but still represents a much-needed victory for Ukraine.
Putin claims to have annexed four Ukrainian regions that his forces at least partially occupy, but they are currently being pushed back in three of them
Kyiv’s men have also pushed on from Kharkiv into neighboring Donetsk and Luhansk, capturing a handful of towns in the former and threatening a key highway in the latter.
In response, Putin has annexed four regions that his troops currently occupy, declaring that any attack on them is an attack on Russia itself.
Such an attack, he has strongly suggested, could prompt retaliation with Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Putin also issued a thinly veiled nuclear threat to the West.
He has also ordered 300,000 men to be drafted into the armed forces, drawing on Russia’s military reserves – although there is evidence that the net has been cast much wider than that.
The move has proven deeply unpopular, sparking protests across the country and prompting up to 370,000 men to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.