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Kremlin insiders are quietly searching for Putin's successor in case he's forced out over the invasion of Ukraine, Russian report says

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Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the State Council Presidium at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia May 25, 2022. Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
  • Kremlin insiders are mulling Putin's successor, according to the independent Russian outlet Meduza.

  • Political elites are dissatisfied with the war in Ukraine and crumbling economy, Meduza reported.

  • Among those discussed are Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin and former President Dmitry Medvedev, Meduza reported.

Kremlin insiders are privately discussing a list of possible successors to Russian President Vladimir Putin in case he is forced out over the invasion of Ukraine or falls ill, the independent Russian outlet Meduza reported.

The impact of Western sanctions and the cost of waging the monthslong war in Ukraine have crippled Russia's economy, with discontent rising among the Kremlin and the government, Meduza reported.

Meduza reported, citing sources with ties to the Russian government, that political elites are now talking about "the future after Putin" more than before.

"It's not that they want to overthrow Putin right now, or that they're plotting a conspiracy, but there's an understanding (or a wish) that he won't be governing the state maybe in the foreseeable future," a source told Meduza of those inside the Kremlin.

The outlet also cited another source as saying: "The president screwed up, but he might still fix everything later, coming to some agreement [with Ukraine]."

Kremlin officials are discussing a list of potential successors to Putin in secret, Meduza reported, with officials floating Mayor Sergey Sobyanin of Moscow, National Security Council Deputy Chairman and former President Dmitry Medvedev, and First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergey Kiriyenko as possible candidates.

However, Russia's elites understand that the only realistic way to get Putin out of office is to wait for a major health issue, Meduza reported, citing sources.

"People are disgusted, but they're still at their jobs, helping to put the country on a war footing," a source told the outlet.

Rumours have swirled for weeks that Putin is seriously ill.

A Russian oligarch was secretly recorded saying Putin is "very ill with blood cancer," New Lines magazine reported, and the film director Oliver Stone, who has interviewed Putin several times, said Putin previously had cancer but recovered. The former British spy Christopher Steele said this month that Russian sources have also told him that Putin is terminally ill.

Western officials have largely poured cold water on those rumors, however, with one saying earlier this week: "My observation is that at the moment President Putin is firmly in control of his inner circle, the country, and the decisions which are being made, irrespective of any speculation about his health. President Putin is still the decision-maker."

A source close to the Kremlin told Meduza: "There's probably almost nobody who's happy with Putin. Businesspeople and many cabinet members are unhappy that the president started this war without thinking through the scale of the sanctions. Normal life under these sanctions is impossible."

Two sources with ties to the Kremlin told Meduza that Putin is reticent to acknowledge the clear economic difficulties resulting from the war in Ukraine.

That said, Meduza reported that there are several hawkish voices inside the Kremlin that believe Russia has gone past the point of no return with Ukraine, and must go all in.

"They figure, since we're entangled there already, there's no going soft now. We need to go even harder," a source told the outlet.

In recent days, Russian troops have made advances in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, with Ukraine's defense ministry spokesperson, Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, saying Tuesday that Russia's military had entered its "most active phase" of the war to date.

Read the original article on Business Insider