Ukraine’s spy chief claims a coup to overthrow Putin is underway

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LONDON — Ukraine’s head of military intelligence claimed he believes that a coup to remove Russian President Vladimir Putin was already underway in Russia — and said he thinks the war is likely to be over by the end of the year.

Speaking to Sky News in an article published Saturday, Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov said he was “optimistic” about Russia’s defeat, suggesting that the loss would lead to Putin being removed from power.

"It will eventually lead to the change of leadership of the Russian Federation," Budanov said. "This process has already been launched."

When asked if a “coup” was underway, he told Sky News: “Yes. … They are moving in this way, and it is impossible to stop it.”

Vladimir Putin, seated in a gilded chair, his face looking a little bloated.
Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russia's Victory Day parade on Monday. (Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via Reuters)

According to Sky News, Budanov doubled down after it was suggested that he was spreading propaganda. "It's my job, it's my work — if not me, who will know this?" he said.

Meanwhile, Gordon B. Davis Jr., former deputy assistant secretary-general of NATO's defense investment division, told Sky News in another interview that he doesn’t “think we’re likely to see a coup in the near future.”

“It’s tough to talk about the credibility of such a likelihood,” he said. “I don’t put a lot of credence right now into the rumors.”

Budanov added in his interview that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian forces’ military tactics have not changed, despite their shift in focus to eastern Ukraine.

“The breaking point will be in the second part of August,” he said. "Most of the active combat actions will have finished by the end of this year. As a result, we will renew Ukrainian power in all our territories that we have lost, including Donbas and the Crimea."

Sky News noted that the major general’s prediction that Russia would invade this year — at a time when other officials were skeptical — had been correct.

During the interview, Budanov also claimed that Putin is currently in “a very bad psychological and physical condition, and he is very sick." In recent years, there has been considerable speculation about Putin’s alleged ill-health.

On Saturday, New Lines Magazine reported that an oligarch close to Putin had claimed the Kremlin leader is “very ill with blood cancer.” In a recording obtained by the publication, an unidentified oligarch was heard allegedly discussing Putin’s health. He went on to complain that Putin had gone “crazy” and claimed that the Russian president had had surgery on his back linked to his cancer, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.