Putin's propaganda machine will struggle to hide the consequences of the Ukraine war for much longer, a former Kremlin insider says.
"In three months, the shops and factories will run out of stocks," Sergei Pugachev told the Washington Post.
"And the scale of deaths in the Russian military will become clear," Pugachev added.
It's only a matter of time until Russians begin to see through Russian President Vladimir Putin's propaganda on the Ukraine war, according to a former Kremlin insider who spoke to the Washington Post.
"In three months, the shops and factories will run out of stocks, and the scale of deaths in the Russian military will become clear," Sergei Pugachev, once part of Putin's inner circle, told the Post. Pugachev, formerly known as "Putin's banker," fled to London in 2011 after falling out with the Russian leader. The ex-Russian banker, who's been accused of embezzlement by the Russian government, has said the deterioration of his relationship with Putin made him fear for his life, per BBC News.
Russia is estimated to have lost up to 15,000 soldiers in Ukraine since the war began roughly two months ago, but Putin's propaganda machine has obscured the true death toll and vied to keep it hidden from the public. Meanwhile, Russia's economy has been left reeling from the slew of sanctions imposed on it by countries across the globe. Major companies have left Russia and inflation is skyrocketing.
Despite the dire situation, Putin has sought to paint a rosy picture of Russia's economic outlook. He's declared that Western sanctions have failed.
But Elvira Nabiullina, the governor of Russia's Central Bank, on Friday told reporters, "We are in a zone of colossal uncertainty."
And according to the Post's reporting, many of Russia's wealthiest people have seen their business empires decimated as a result of the Ukraine war.
"In one day, they destroyed what was built over many years. It's a catastrophe," one Russian businessman told the Post. The man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, was among a group of wealthy Russians who were called upon to meet with Putin the day he launched the unprovoked invasion in late February.
As they waited roughly two hours for Putin to arrive at the meeting, one participant told the Post, "Some of them said, 'We've lost everything.'"
That said, the Post's report also said that Russian magnates are still wary of publicly speaking against the war or Putin. The Russian leader, whose critics often wind up dead or behind bars, signed a law shortly after the invasion that could see people sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for spreading "fake news" on the Russian military.
"What they say is subtle: The context is that the West, NATO is to blame…They are talking about this as though it is a conspiracy against Russia," Pugachev told the Post.
But as the war drags on and the pain of the economic penalties is felt more acutely across Russia, some say Putin will become increasingly isolated and more people will turn against him.
Vladimir Ashurkov, the executive director of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, earlier this week told Insider that the Ukraine was has accelerated Putin's downfall because of the immense consequences for the Russian elite.
"The beginning of the end of Putin started some time ago. But I'm confident that this war has made many people in Russia and outside of Russia unhappy with him. The people in the political and economic elite have seen their lifestyles turned upside down, their fortunes decimated," Ashurkov said, adding, "This makes Putin highly unpopular and it affects everybody. I do believe that this speeds up his demise."
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