Vladimir Putin is desperate. The results of his “special operation” in the Ukraine are a disaster. Not only did he not gain control of all the areas he wanted in the first 60 days of the invasion, in the north and center of the country, but now he risks losing the ones he had already controlled in Luhansk, Zaporizhia and others.
For the first time – not only during the conflict, but in the 23 years he has been in power – a member of the Russian Parliament, Andrei Kartapolov, chairman of the Defense Committee, dared to question it. He asked to speak the truth: “We have to stop lying, people know what is happening; she’s not stupid,” he said.
Russia is not winning any wars, nor is it advancing in the invasion. They are not facing Nazi forces that threaten Russian security.
The lies repeated by the media propaganda apparatus under the iron control of the Kremlin begin to crumble.
Tens of thousands of young Russians – nobody has a precise accounting – have fled the forced recruitment ordered three weeks ago. Thousands to the north, towards Finland and the Baltic countries, and others to the east through Kaliningrad and Poland. There is even a record of an American chain of Russians crossing the Bering Strait by raft to Alaska.
Putin, desperate, ashamed and furious at the poor military performance of his forces, has withdrawn at least eight senior commanders of the occupation forces, ground, air, paratroopers and the Russian Navy itself, due to pyrrhic results in the field of operations. Not only are they losing positions, but they are in retreat in various enclaves.
There are versions of disagreement among the military commanders, but the panic at the persecution and subsequent defenestration outweighs any audacity.
They know that President Putin is vertical, authoritarian; some critics in Moscow timidly suggest “bloody” as the worst epithet applied to the leader.
Whoever falls from Putin’s grace not only faces ostracism, public stigmatization, loss of honors and privileges, but perhaps even total disappearance.
It is a replica of Soviet times. There are no longer gulags, concentration camps in the Siberian tundra –we believe–, but there are subhuman prisons where people who have lost the benefit and sympathy of the powerful can be deposited.
In the West, telephone recordings circulate of Russian soldiers stationed in Ukraine, who call their families to tell them that everything is a hoax, they were led with lies, there are no Nazis to fight, and they have also faced fierce resistance. They are being killed: they are the invaders in a sister territory, which they have turned into a brutal enemy.
Putin goes over his military commands and acts, in fact, as commander in chief transformed into commander on the battlefront: he issues instructions, moves battalions, orders the movement of weapons.
Everything is useless. Ukraine defends itself with its claws, and with significant support in war equipment provided by the United States and NATO.
In recent days, the attack on the bridge that connects the territory of Crimea with Russia over the sea caused the destruction of one of the sections. This produced an angry reaction from Putin, who ordered an express, surprise bombing of eight Ukrainian cities, without specific targets, just to cause terror and spread panic.
Ukraine denies being responsible for the bridge attack; Russia calls him a terrorist.
As the facts unravel, missiles from Russian bombers hit urban centers. Few dead, but the signal is clear.
The United States offers Ukraine state-of-the-art anti-missile air defense systems.
For now, there is no scenario of negotiation or peace dialogue.
Signs of an eventual breakup come from within Russia, with newly recruited potential young soldiers defecting or fleeing. With high command offended, humiliated and expelled after decades of experience and service.
Does anyone dare to make bets? Will Putin lose his absolute control over the military? Will his downfall be precipitated by the rise of civil rebellion inside Russia, which the security forces refuse to suppress?
It would not be the first time that this has happened in that land of overthrown and massacred emperors, or historical political leaders.
Only the grim specter of nuclear weapons used by Russia to bring a proud Ukraine to its knees seems to remain at the bottom of the Kremlin’s arsenal.
For now, it looks unlikely that Putin will lose control; he remains isolated in one of his fortresses, heavily guarded and protected.
However, it happened before, it could happen again and many think that he is in the desperate stage of the last kicks, of a disaster that he himself caused.
The hope of the West is that the military can prevent a fit of madness by wanting to resort to the nuclear card as a last resort.