Interest in a Palace Coup Against Putin Said Growing Among Russian Elites

March 8, 2015
Putin meets with member of the Security Council in January 2013. Photo by Presidential Press Office.

Staunton, March 8 – Despite his efforts, Vladimir Putin is not a remake of Stalin and thus could be overthrown in a coup because he has not only violated the social contract he had with the Russian people but has with the murder of Boris Nemtsov shown that he is prepared to kill members of the elite who cross him, according to Ivan Yakovina.

As a result, the former online specialist and current Ukrainian Novoye Vremya correspondent says, some in the elite are already thinking that they must strike before he turns on them; and unlike Stalin, Putin won’t find it easy to prevent them from doing so and succeeding.

Putin has been trying to transform himself into the Stalin of today both by his foreign policy actions and by his moves at home, shifting from “’soft’” suppression of those who oppose him to prison and exile and now to “the physical elimination” of their leaders with the murder of Boris Nemtsov.

“The murder of a representative of the contemporary Russian ‘nobility,’ a former vice premier who was close to Boris Yeltsin and someone who was personally acquainted with many world leaders,” Yakovina says, “is a signal to all representatives of this class, the highly-paced bureaucrats, the oligarchs near the throne and the many-starred generals.”

Until Nemtsov’s murder, “the unwritten rules” or more precisely “understandings” included the idea that once you entered the very highest circles, you might suffer if you crossed the Kremlin leader but you would not lose your life and your relatives would not lose theirs either.

“In Russia where human life is cheap,” the commentator says, “such a privilege is worth a lot.” And Nemtsov’s murder calls that into question for those around Putin himself, none of whom believe the tales the regime has put about concerning who is to blame. Those, Yakovina says, are “for ‘the 86 percent’ and the West.”

Russia’s “ministers, oligarchs and generals understand perfectly who in fact did away with the politician…and from now on, anyone suspected of disloyalty could be next.” That has to worry them because “the occasions for such suspicions are becoming ever greater,” the analyst suggests.

Many have talked about the ways in which the violation of the social contract between Putin and the population have occurred, but this violation of the one between the Kremlin leader and the top elite is much more serious, at least as far as the politics in Moscow in the coming days, weeks and months are concerned.

Putin’s “legitimacy” in their eyes is disappearing, and many of them – and not just the opposition but his most active supporters in the past – are now talking about the risks to themselves and what they should do to prevent him from acting against him as he has against Nemtsov.

Obviously, Putin is concerned about this. “In recent times, he has become paranoid in his fears of an attack,” Yakovina says. He has increased his guard force, he has reduced the circle with who he is in contact, and he has “almost ceased to appear in public.” And viewed from Putin’s perspective, killing Nemtsov was a way to increase his personal security.

That is because, the analyst continues, “in an atmosphere of total terror and general suspiciousness, it will be much more difficult for the elites to organize a conspiracy.” But it won’t be impossible because “building a wall against a putsch in contemporary Russia is not so simple.”

“The main problem is that Putin is not Stalin,” Yakovina says. He is only a pale copy of the original. Moreover, he is surrounded by a different kind of elite, something that will mean that the use of repression will not have the same consequences for him as it did for the Soviet dictator.

“In the Russian elite” now, he continues, there are a large number of willful and energetic people who emerged from “’the wild ‘90s’ not only alive but also extremely cruel and successful.” Such people are unlikely to sit idly by and wait until they follow Nemtsov into the grave.

Instead, Yakovina says, they are going to focus on the source of their “financial and political problems and the threat to their security and the cause of Western sanctions.” That source has a name – Vladimir Putin – and ever more of them are going to want him out of the way.