Russian President Vladimir Putin likely feels “mortally wounded” by the weekend’s military mutiny — risking purges “like we’ve never seen before” and even the possibility of a full-scale “collapsed Russia,” according to UK officials.
Alicia Kearns, the chairman of the UK’s foreign affairs select committee, told LBC Radio that the attempted coups by the powerful Wagner Group over the weekend created a “really dangerous inflection point.”
“The risk of a collapsed Russia is not insignificant,” she warned of the country with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.
“We don’t know how far Putin will go to keep power, but let’s consider it to be significant. If he’s successful, we will see purges, I think, like we have never seen before,” the senior politician said.
She also warned that “what could come next could be a lot worse.”
“There are no good options here and I think we really should be worried,” she said.
Although Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin — a former top Putin ally — seemingly agreed to turn back from Moscow and take up amnesty in Belarus, Kearns warned that the upheaval “is definitely not over.”
“No one believes that Prigozhin is going to Belarus and live out his life quietly there,” Kearns told the Daily Mail.
“Putin… is mortally wounded but I don’t think anyone can say Putin is finished,” Kearns warned, saying that the revolt “has raised questions about the wholescale stability of the country.”
“There is nothing more that Putin hates than a traitor.”
Kearns said that the UK government “knew for a few days that something was coming” — suggesting that other dark forces were involved in Russia given how Putin appeared to have been blindsided by the revolt.
“Did Russian intelligence not believe he was capable of marching on Moscow or did they lie to Putin because they were scared of him?” Kearns asked.
Senior UK government sources also told The Times of London that the West “must prepare for a whole range of different scenarios.”
“From the very beginning of the invasion [of Ukraine], one of the most obvious scenarios was that the war could lead to political unrest back home in Russia,” one senior UK government source told the UK paper.
“We have to wait, watch and see what comes next,” another said. “This could be chapter one of something new.”
Kearns said that she “would just urge caution” on those hoping to see the back of Putin, noting that history has taught as that military coups typically end with “some sort of military, far-right extreme rule.”
John Foreman, the former British defense attaché in Moscow, told the UK Times that Prigozhin toppling Putin would actually be the “worst-case scenario.”
“You’ve got to be careful what you wish for,” he said.
“Prigozhin is not some sort of liberal, peace-loving democrat. He’s a fascist.”