The race to overthrow Vladimir Putin and grab his crown is underway, says Russian war analyst and former loyalist Igor Strelkov.
‘The fight for the political Olympus has begun between the groupings that surround Putin,’ he said.
The battle to replace him is raging to the extent that ‘even we can notice it’.
Strelkov – a former FSB colonel key to Putin’s annexation of Crimea and subjugation of the Donetsk region of Ukraine in 2014 – is now a staunch critic of the Kremlin’s war strategy.
‘The fight for the political Olympus has begun between the groupings that surround Putin,’ he said Strelkov. Pictured: Putin in Moscow, Russia, January 4, 2022
The fight at the top of the Kremlin focuses on insurgent Putin crony Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner private army. Pictured: Putin (left) and Yevgeny Prigozhin (right), undated
An immediate mass mobilisation of half a million more men is the only way for Putin to avoid defeat and ignominy in the war in Ukraine, he claims.
He spoke amid claims Putin has approved in principle a huge new mobilisation drive.
The fight at the top of the Kremlin focuses on insurgent Putin crony Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner private army, and loyalist forces in the defence ministry around weakening defence minister Sergei Shoigu, according to Strelkov.
Others believe security apparatchiks around ex-FSB head Nikolai Patrushev – secretary of the powerful security council – are more likely to pull the trigger on Putin in a bid to save the elite ruling circle if the war continues to go wrong.
Some claim the security bloc is lining up his son Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev as the frontman for a coup replacing Putin if he is forced out by war setbacks or ill health.
Strelkov sees Prigozhin, once Putin’s ‘chef’ in charge of Kremlin banquets, as aiming to be a major political force in his own right, and there is evidence he is now securing prominent coverage in the state media.
There has been speculation he wants to become Defence Minister – or even president.
An immediate mass mobilisation of half a million more men is the only way for Putin to avoid defeat, Strelkov said. Pictured: Putin (right) and Kiriyenko (left), his first deputy chief of staff
‘The grouping of Yevgeny Prigozhin [head of Wagner private army] stands against grouping which includes Sergei Shoigu [Russian defence minister],’ said Strelkov, real name Igor Girkin, former defence minister of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.
‘They have already started the fight. They are not fighting over the number of shells…
‘Now we are speaking about what comes after Putin. Will it happen in one year or two? We don’t know.
‘But factually the fight for the political Olympus has begun between the groupings that surround Putin to the extent that even we can notice it…’
Prigozhin wants to become a ‘political actor’ and ‘he is clearly pumping up his authority, including in public’.
Strelkov warned: ‘His latest appearances in the media clearly showed that now he positions himself not just like a war commander, but as a public and a political figure…
‘Prigozhin stands against the grouping which Shoigu either heads or belongs to. They have already started to fight. It was like a ‘feudal’ battle. The military crisis led to a power crisis,’ he said.
‘In turn the power crisis will deepen the military crisis. And it’ll keep going down the spiral, unless urgent measures I mentioned earlier are taken.’
This involves a cull of top commanders and mass mobilisation.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu delivers a speech during an annual meeting of the Defence Ministry Board in Moscow, Russia, December 21, 2022
Putin at a meeting with defence minister Sergei Shoigu in April 2022
‘There will be a second wave of mobilisation,’ he forecast.
‘They will be forced to have it, a second and then perhaps a third wave. To win in Ukraine we would need about half a million more soldiers.’
Telegram channel General SVR claimed Putin has approved plans to call up two million for mobilisation this year, with some going to the front as cannon fodder, and others working in military-linked industries.
The first to be called will be men in debt to their ex-wives over alimony payments, it claimed.
Such a move for mass mobilisation could come next month.
Strelkov has key support among army and secret services commanders below the top level.
He has so far avoided arrest despite biting criticisms of Putin and his leading henchmen.
Strelkov, 52, a staunchly pro-war blogger, is among three convicted by a Dutch court last year for the downing of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet in which all 298 on board were killed in 2014.
Despite this, he remains a key voice inside Russia on the conduct of the war.