A former Kremlin aide is warning that as Moscow blindly pursues its bloody conquest in Ukraine, the situation at home is quietly heading towards a military coup.
Abbas Gallyamov, Vladimir Putin’s former speechwriter, says the conditions are already there for a full revolt.
“The longer the war drags on, the clearer its pointlessness becomes,” Gallyamov writes in a new column for opposition media outlet Mozhem Obyasnit.
The Russian public has largely begun to realize that the Kremlin’s dream of toppling the Kyiv “regime” is not going to happen, Gallyamov notes, and the consolation prize of new “Russian” territories is not winning anybody over.
Discord is also growing in the military, he argues, where “[Wagner boss Yevgeny] Prigozhin has completely discredited the regime in the eyes of service members with his rhetoric, and anger at the authorities allowing a criminal to walk all over them is growing stronger.”
Putin’s cunning, “macho” image has also disintegrated, Gallyamov writes: “As problems pile up in the country and the army that the authorities are unable to solve, Putin is more steadily transforming in people’s eyes from a great strategist to an ordinary, second-rate dictator.”
After months of widespread reports on Russian troops rebelling against their commanders, going public with complaints about top military brass, or deserting the war altogether, Gallyamov notes that all it takes to light the fuse of a full military coup is a little more organization.
“It must be understood that the vast majority of commanders in the army of an authoritarian nation are not staunch supporters of the authorities, but run-of-the-mill opportunists,” he argues.
So once a revolt begins and “yesterday’s loyalties” vanish, military commanders will fight for whoever seems most likely to win, according to Gallyamov. “If complaints against authorities seem convincing to [a commander], then he will most likely decide that that [regime] will not stand against a wave of public anger. And if that’s the case, there’s no reason not to join.”
In addition to the myriad reports already out there of troops revolting against and in some cases even attacking their own commanders, thousands more Russian soldiers have voluntarily handed themselves over to Ukrainian authorities to avoid taking part in the war.
A representative for a Ukrainian hotline called “I Want to Live” told The Guardian on Thursday that a total of 6,543 Russian troops had called up seeking to surrender to the Ukrainian government in a span of about four months.
“During the liberation of Kherson, we had calls from Russians and they told us: ‘Just save our souls because we got stuck somewhere in the mud, our battalion is totally crushed, we have 10 soldiers left, please take us from this mess,” Vitali Matvienko was quoted saying.
He did not say how many of those phone calls led to completed surrenders.
While Russian troops had once bragged about what they were sure would be a lightning-fast takeover of Ukraine, ordinary Russian citizens are now instead seeing a steady drip of death at home, with billboards going up advertising funeral services for “Cargo 200,” a military term for those killed in action.
Incidentally, Russia’s funeral services industry may be one of the only sectors of the economy to hit the jackpot in the war, even as other industries suffer from international sanctions.
The Insider reports that the industry is blowing up at a record pace and crematoriums are “growing exponentially.”
The owner of a crematorium in Novosibirsk told the outlet there’s so much demand he’s planning to open a whole new military section in the spring.
“Everything will be in the military style, we’ll even set up a cannon,” he said, adding that manufacturers had also begun offering camouflage coffins and “a lot of military paraphernalia.”
Although they may not prove that popular. “Apparently for the relatives it has bad associations,” he said.