Vladimir Putin’s dismal fate is increasingly plain for all to see

A leaked call among Russian elites spells out his end in plain terms: defeat, disgrace, and deposal

Robert Clark

30 March 2023 •

Vladimir Putin is a “wimp” who “doesn’t give a f— about the people”. So runs a leaked recording of a phone conversation purported to be between Iosif Prigozhin, a Russian music producer, and the billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov. While personal disdain from one-time allies may sting, it’s the apparent political predictions in the call that will keep Putin awake at night.

“There will be fascism there, that’s what’s going to happen… a military dictatorship”, a voice identified as Akhmedov says, seemingly of Russia’s future. Such views, if common, will have disastrous implications for Putin’s legitimacy – and potentially his continued hold on power.

The Russian autocrat is nothing without his coterie of billionaire allies, many of whom he has empowered through decades of systemic corruption. These oligarchs appear to be increasingly dissatisfied with his ruinous handling of the war in Ukraine, which has left a quarter of a million Russians dead or wounded and wiped billions off the Russian stock exchange. The oligarchs know that, at some point, they might face a choice between watching as their finances continue to be hit by sanctions and their yachts and mansions are seized across Europe, or pulling their political support and backing a successor.

In this context, the revelation that Russian elites might already have begun to think about a “post-Putin” Russia is fascinating. It is an indication of just how worried the Kremlin is that pro-Putin state media and propaganda outfits have remained quiet on the matter. Prigozhin, for his part, claimed the leak was fake before adding that there were “some real things here”.

Putin’s legitimacy is suffering domestically after a disastrous winter on the battlefield which has seen mounting Russian losses with no tactical or operational victories to show for them. Some intelligence analysts whisper that they would be unsurprised to wake up one morning to find Putin “hospitalised”, “incapacitated”, or just plain disappeared, with a great deal of speculation that Defence Minister and long-time Putin ally Sergei Shoigu could be in line to replace him.

Despite his calamitous handling of the war, Shoigu understands better than many in the Kremlin the military situation facing Russian forces; low on manpower and morale, rolling out 70 year-old platforms, with renewed Ukrainian offensives on the near-horizon. He might be well-placed to carry out a delicate balancing act.

Putin’s successor will need to balance the Russian people’s desire for continuity with an end to the sacrifices in blood and treasure which are bleeding Russia dry in Ukraine. This could entail a diplomatic settlement that may look very close to defeat. Kyiv would probably have the military and diplomatic upper hand in negotiations, and will refuse to make concessions over the status of Crimea and other occupied regions.

To get here, the West needs to continue to provide the arms and armaments that sustain Kyiv’s war, while being ready to deal with a new Russian leadership at any moment. As much as the leaked tapes might reveal the dissent within “billionaire Moscow”, it is ultimately defeat on the battlefield that will bring Putin’s barbarous war against Ukraine and Europe to an end – and with it his own rule.

Robert Clark is director of the defence and security unit at the think tank Civitas. Prior to this he served in the British Army


  1. Yes folks, it’s another of those “putler’s finished” articles.
    Well, one of them must surely come true soon…..

    • Well we all know that he’s not going to survive the next ten years. If a revolt doesn’t get him then his age, and cancer will. Assuming it is cancer. Putin, of course, refuses to confirm anything about it. If he’s actually healthy, he could clearly prove that, but he doesn’t bother, so the lack of proof on one side is a substantial suggestion to the possibility of what we’re free to speculate about. Putin is dying earlier than he expected.

      I really wish I knew how much he’s got, but even he knows that if he allowed for that to come out, his efforts will all seem pointless amidst the backdrop of unjustified war against another country, and his personal pride about legacy won’t tolerate that.

      Now I’m thinking that Zelensky is in a perfect position to send out propaganda about how weak putin is, both in terms of physically, and of the war. The troops get dug out of prisons, don’t get trained, or much in the way of weapons, and he’s actually begging china for help now! The ONLY way for russians to survive in Ukraine, is to give up.

  2. Randomly selected comments:
Dan King: The Russians will not lose on the battlefield as is proposed in the article as the end game – despite their human losses, as they have a massive pool of people to induct to send to their deaths. This is how Russia operates. Ultimately a peace deal must be agreed. 

Another Reader : Dictators seldom die of old age in their own beds. 
Gaddafi allegedly came to an ignominious end with a bayonet where the sun don’t shine. He didn’t like it up him. 
The best outcome for Putin would be to be arrested and put on trial for all the world to see. 
The Russian people need to understand what their own sons have done. 

Mark Smith : All well and good but there’s the Trump factor hope someone takes him out too.

D Ti : Wishful thinking 

graham peacock : The elite in Russia owe Putin. Without his say-so these people are in jail. They may very well despise Putin but that is a long way from removing Putin. 
This has a long way to play out yet. Keep sending Ukraine more weapons tanks guns and fighter jets. 

martin brook : Putin needs Shutin! 

Toeknee Kneetoe : I’m surprised that the EU hasn’t completely revoked every Russian’s access to European Countries. In addition ALL property should be nationalized and if necessary, sold to help pay for the war. I’m not talking about Oligarchs but the thousands of Upper- Middle class Russians with holiday homes in the South of France and Italy. 
See how quickly Putin loses his “popularity” in Russia once this happens. Just do it! 

    Louise Mullineux 
Reply to Toeknee Kneetoe : Interesting perspective but isn’t that just racism or xenophobia? I’m not an expert but I thought collective punishment was a war crime? Can a learned friend let is know. I’m genuinely intrigued. 

Gavin Smith 
Reply to Toeknee Kneetoe 
Many of these middle class Russians you mention have left Russia either through self interest (not wanting to be ground up in his war machine) or because or disgust with Putins regime. Either way, the action you propose plays into his hands, giving the middle class no option but to support him, giving him manpower and tax revenue. Not helpful in bringing about his demise. 

Sean O’Hare : Humm … all the independent western military experts I’m listening to seem to think Russia will win. No one is saying the opposite … even Loyd Austin wouldn’t give anything other than a very weak ‘hope’ yesterday. The 1200 mile front is crumbling daily. Maybe there will be a big UKN offensive that we hear about but it better come soon and it better be big. 

troll alert : David Gordon : I’m astonished by how many comments trust this bizarre and twisted narrative which beats no resemblance to the actual situation. Purest propaganda. Ukraine has no ammo, is on its knees and the human tragedy continues because Zelensky and the west are happy to keep the bloodshed going. It can only end one way and Putin is very much in control. Please broaden your newsfeed guys.

    Reply to David Gordon from J Manning : I presume you travel on a Russian passport?

    Anna Jackson: I don’t presume to predict the outcome of the war in Ukraine, but I note that the weekly newspaper articles predicting Putin’s demise are repetitive and clearly wrong. The man is still firmly in charge and hellbent on at least hanging on to the eastern parts of Ukraine as well as Crimea. Wishful thinking does not good journalism make.

    Sue Smith: don’t care a jot who , why or what gets rid of the evil Putin as long as someone does .
    All the so called ‘friends’ he has don’t exist . He has no friends only people who are scared not to be on the right side of him for fear they will stumble out of yet another open window .
    The creature is pure evil and when he’s gone I for one will celebrate unashamedly.

    Amen to that Sue!

    • The common people have more capacities for strategic thinking than the collective losers in Western capitals.

  3. “The oligarchs know that, at some point, they might face a choice between watching as their finances continue to be hit by sanctions and their yachts and mansions are seized across Europe, or pulling their political support and backing a successor.”

    Alas, MUCH more could be done to complete this process and, concurrently, accelerate it. But, as usual, the West does things in a half-assed manner.

  4. Apparently, Putler and his mafia gang are bringing in a new law, that states companies in russia have to “voluntarily” donate 5% of excess profits, to fund the building of “roads”, “health” and infrastructure”. In other words, they are running out of money for their war machine!

  5. Literally at exactly the same time I opened this message to look at it, I farted! The timing almost seemed like a commentary on putin. lol

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