Russia’s humiliating withdrawal from Kherson has reportedly left tyrant Vladimir Putin fearing for his life. The city’s liberation by Ukrainian forces has prompted many prominent Kremlin cronies to turn their backs on the dictator, a senior military advisor to Volodymyr Zelensky claimed.
Kherson represented the only major city or provincial capital that Russia’s forces had actually managed to capture. Ultra nationalist commentators across Russia were left stunned when the retreat was announced, decrying Putin’s utter failure to achieve any substantial gains since he first invaded on February 24.
Now the despot is reportedly afraid of his own closest advisors as his country increasingly loses faith in him.
An adviser to President Zelensky’s chief of staff, Oleksiy Arestovich, told The Times, Putin is terrified because “there is no forgiveness in Russia for tsars who lose wars”.
He said: “He is fighting for his life now. If he loses the war, at least in the minds of the Russians, it means the end.
“The end of him as a political figure. And possibly in the physical sense.”
The 47-year-old added: “This has forced even people who are very loyal to Putin to doubt that they can win this war.”
Even state television presenters, often in the business of spreading pro-Putin propaganda, publicly lamented the return of Kherson to Ukrainian hands.
One extreme nationalist commentator to turn on the dictator was Alexander Dugin, a man so influential on Russia’s president he earned himself the nickname “Putin’s brain”.
According to the ISW, Dugin said Putin had to preserve Russia or face the fate of “king of the rains”. In a book studying mythology and religion by Sir James Frazer named “The Golden Bough”, a king is killed for failing to provide rain during a drought – suggesting that Dugin believes Putin should face the same fate, should he fail to protect Russia.
Dugin said: “We give the ruler absolute fullness of power, and he saves us all, the people, the state, people, citizens, at a critical moment.
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“If for this he surrounds himself with s*** or spits on social justice, this is unpleasant, but if only he saves. Then – the fate of the ‘king of the rains’.”
The commentator added in condemnation of the retreat from Kherson: “The authorities in Russia cannot surrender anything else… the limit has been reached”.
However, Dugin later took a very different perspective.
He wrote: “The West (has) started to imply that I and Russian patriots have turned against Putin after the Kherson surrender, allegedly demanding his resignation. No one has turned their back on Putin, I and all Russian patriots support him unconditionally.”
The psychological toll of his declining power has also been evidenced by images which suggest Putin’s physical health is declining. In recent political meetings, such as one with the President of Cuba, Putin can be seen gripping his chair as though he is struggling to remain upright.
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He was also pictured in another meeting with Dmitry Mazepin, a Russian manufacturing magnate. Putin was seen gripping the edge of his desk tightly, this time with his right hand.
A former Kremlin analyst claimed recently that he is suffering “very serious cancer”, and is being kept from the public eye.
Kyiv and its surrounding areas were left devastated after Russian forces unleashed sweeping missile and drone strikes, thought to be a retaliation following the reclamation of Kherson.
70 percent of Kyiv was left without power during as the approaching winter saw temperatures plummet.
Some commentators have argued this may be an attempt to blackmail Ukraine’s government into agreeing to an unfavourable peace deal, effectively using its people as ransom and delivering the victory Putin needs to save his life.