Kremlin insiders are plotting to remove Vladimir Putin by poisoning him, a Ukrainian intelligence body has claimed.
The goal of this group is to remove Putin from power as soon as possible and restore economic ties with the West.
According to the intelligence brief, the powerful insiders are dismayed at the impact the war and subsequent sanctions have had on the Russian economy.
The Ukrainian intelligence service claims that a successor to Putin has already been chosen in the form of FSB director Oleksandr Bortnikov.
“It is known that Bortnikov and some other influential representatives of the Russian elite are considering various options to remove Putin from power,” the Chief Directorate of Intelligence said.
“In particular, poisoning, sudden disease, or any other ‘coincidence’ is not excluded.”
The agency suggested that the losses incurred by Chechen forces in the north of the country may have influenced the alleged plot.This weekend Ukraine said that part of the notorious Chechen fighting squadron had been sent back to Russia after many of their troops were killed.
The suggestion that Bortnikov is the man to replace Putin could be considered surprising, given how the two men have worked their way up through Russian society together.
They both served on the KGB in Leningrad, before Bortnikov took over the rebranded security agency.
Bortnikov’s FSB is both the brain and the heart of the Putin regime, a “state within the state,” according to an in-depth investigation by the Dossier Centre.
At the beginning of the conflict a usually camera shy Bortnikov delivered the goods for Putin when he claimed that two of his border guards had captured a Ukrainian military saboteur alive on Russian soil.
He said that saboteur had malicious intentions against the state, before they were taken out by his people.
While the claims were pre-empted and then debunked by the West, they served as a means of justifying the war within Russia.
Bortnikov has now fallen out of favour with the Moscow despot, over errors in the Ukraine war.
Putin has lashed out at and sacked eight generals in a bid to divert blame from himself for the bloody war which has killed almost 15,000 of his troops in just 25 days.
The increasingly paranoid leader has even publicly ranted about “traitors” and “scum” who he suspects of being disloyal to Moscow, possibly by leaking information.
The elite plotters, according to Ukrainian intelligence, picked out 70 year-old Bortnikov because they believe he could spearhead the restoration of economic ties with the west.
They are increasingly worried about Russia becoming a pariah state, shunned by the west and having their houses, bank accounts and yachts seized- as well as their ability to travel and conduct business crippled.
Bortnikov is believed to have a network of insiders working and living within Ukraine, where he ran a network of agents for many years.
The Urals-born ruthless career spy has long been one of Putin’s closest aides.
He also heads the FSB’s economic arm, playing a key role in building Russia’s post Soviet-era growth – while leading counter-intelligence operations to ensure it was not penetrated by western spies.
But it is thought Putin is now furious with him for allowing his military commanders to be wrong-footed by the ferocious Ukrainian defence against the invasion.
Already Russian security council deputy head Dmitry Medvedev has sacked FSB deputy Vyacheslav Ushakov over bungles in intelligence that led to the invasion.
The sacking has also left Bortnikov, who apparently suggested it, in disgrace with Putin.
One Ukrainian intelligence source revealed recently: “It is noteworthy that Bortnikov has recently been disgraced by the Russian dictator.
“The official reason for the disgrace of the FSB leader – fatal miscalculations in the war against Ukraine.
“Bortnikov and his department were responsible for analysing the mood of Ukraine and the ability of the Ukrainian army.” .
It is also suspected that within Moscow’s intelligence community somebody had leaked information to Ukraine about Chechen fighters attacking Kyiv from the north.
It is not known if veteran spy and key Moscow official Bortnikov is under suspicion himself but he has known Putin for decades.
A tip on the Chechens proved invaluable to Ukraine’s war-planners and allowed Ukrainian special forces and regular troops to ambush the Chechen force, killing many.
It is also suspected that somebody within Putin’s inner-circle of spooks has given information to Ukraine’s SBU domestic spy agency on plots to kill President Zelensky.
Zelensky has survived a large number of assassination attempts which have been foiled by Ukraine’s elite troops as they closed in on the hero leader, inside Kyiv.
But now the Russian leader may be facing a growing plot against himself – according to information leaked by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence Main Intelligence Directorate.
A western source told the Daily Mirror last night: “These rumours and suspicions within the Moscow inner-circle will sow the seeds of paranoia and doubt in the leadership.
“There is no doubt that as the Russian elite feel the pinch of sanctions that they will be looking at the future with an eye on what a catastrophe this war is for them – and it’s going to get worse.
“There is a significant suspicion that a small number of people might actually now try to get rid of the Russian President but whether they will succeed remains to be seen.
“Certainly they are being given an awful lot of encouragement by various influential figures in the west and the feeling amongst most people is that enough is enough.
“Crucially, although Ukraine has suffered immensely from this invasion it has wrong-footed Russia’s military at every step, predicting their military moves and crippling their forces.
“It is very possible that somebody has been leaking information and given every bit of encouragement to do so- perhaps with an offer of a future in the west or even in Russia itself.”
The Daily Mirror also understands that Russian diplomats may have been offered a safe future in the west if they publicly denounce the Russian leadership and the war.
A separate senior source has revealed several western leaders have discussed, along with Ukraine, the idea of offering asylum to some of Moscow’s diplomats.
None have come forward yet, it is believed, but Ukrainian sources claim western leaders have already approved their intelligence agencies making the approach.
Last night Ukrainian military officials within the Ministry of Defence Intelligence Directorate said a large number of Putin loyalists were again trying to kill Ukrainian leader Zelensky.
Kyiv officials have said killers from Putin’s mercenary “Wagner Group” are arriving in Ukraine to try and get to the Ukraine President and kill him, along with Prime Minister Denys Shyhal.
Both men have already survived at least four credible assassination attempts and many so-called “elite” Russian special forces spies and killers have been killed or caught in Kyiv.
It is also believed ruthless Chechen special forces men have been offered incentives to execute the Ukrainian leader who has repeatedly appeared publicly in defiance of Russia.
Whether the Ukrainian intelligence claims are accurate, or a means of sowing division within Russia’s top ranks, is unclear.
In the days after Russia first invaded Ukraine, thousands of Russians risked arrest to show their opposition to the war.
The brutal crackdown of demonstrations by police seems to have crushed any early roots of a popular uprising, leading those hopeful of an internal collapse within Russia to question whether its elites could topple Putin.
The primary obstacle to this seems to be the power structure within the Russian government, painstakingly put in place by Putin over the past two decades.
The 69-year-old has been careful to implicate other senior officials in the decision to invade Ukraine, potentially uniting his inner circle with the fear of being hauled in front of an international court.
According to reporting in expose Putin’s People, the Russian leader actively encourages those he’s chosen to lead industries to skim some cream off – ingratiating him to them, and insuring they’re unable to walk away from the position.
Adam Casey, a postdoctoral fellow at the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies at the University of Michigan, believes the Putin is coup proof.
“He’s spent a lot of time and effort designing the Russian security apparatus in a way that sort of makes him relatively invulnerable to coups,” he told the Business Insider.
The FSB is a “pretty effective” form of coup prevention, Casey explained, because military officials fear that they’re being monitored and could be killed off.