Moscow expert and investigative journalist Christo Grozev says a coup against the Russian leader is now a realistic possibility.
He also says the chances of the president launching a nuclear attack are becoming slimmer, as it is likely his order would not be acted upon.
This is due to senior security apparatchiks believing he could potentially be removed from power in three months time, the Mirror reports.
Grozev told Radio Liberty: “I think that it is the informed elite within the security forces who understand that the war is lost."
Leading Russian security apparatchiks understand Putin would need a full mass mobilisation to win the war, but this would cause a “social explosion” in Russia.
There may be pressure for use of nuclear or chemical weapons from hardliners.
But others say "enough is enough” and “it is better not to waste another 10,000 lives of our soldiers and officers”.
On likely scenarios now, Grozev - who has linked to UK online research outlet Bellingcat - he said: “Of course, there is the option that Putin himself gives the order to carry out some of these critical decisions, such as the use of nuclear weapons. “
But this could lead to a refusal by one or more of the “five hands’ needed to launch Russia’s most deadly weapons.
“And this refusal will be the trigger, most likely, of a coup d'état, because after the refusal to comply with the order of the king, everything will go down very quickly,” he said.
Grozev sees the chance of use of nuclear weapons receding.
“If Putin decides to give an order to use nuclear weapons, he must be sure that everyone along the chain will carry out this order,” he said.
“He understands five hands…must press the buttons in sequence.
“If one [person] does not comply, then this will be a signal of insubordination and perhaps even the physical death of Putin.
“So until he is sure that everyone will comply, he will not give this order.
“Whether Putin will be in power in three months is not clear to the security forces.
“Therefore, they cannot accept guarantees from him that he will ensure their safety.”
It is known that defence minister Sergei Shoigu and chief of the defence staff Valery Gerasimov would need to sanction a nuclear strike.
During the war, Putin has made a point of being seen in public with an official carrying the Russian nuclear briefcase.
Grozev also said that defence ministry flights to a supposed command and control bunker near Ufa - 725 miles east of Moscow - have reduced since earlier in the war.
“Those flights for the elite, which we recorded a month ago, are now not so intense,” he said.
Grozev said that senior figures in the FSB - Russia’s main internal security agency - and in the GRU military intelligence directorate - are preparing for life after Putin.
The "intellectual part of the GRU", those with “complete information” understand the mire Putin is in, he said.
“And also the FSB elite, which knows the specific number of victims among the Russian troops, and understands that the mothers, wives, sisters of the dead or missing Russian soldiers do not stop asking questions.
“They know that this situation will eventually get out of hand.
“These are those parts of the security forces who know the dangers for the regime, and they themselves are now preparing their future.
“Some of them are looking for an opportunity to take their families out of Russia, all are looking for ways to transfer the accumulated money (corruption money in many cases) into dollars and euros.
“This is already a kind of betrayal by these people, because they do not follow the ideological orders of the Kremlin, but are preparing for an alternative reality.”
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