VLADIMIR Putin is losing grip on power and his regime faces total collapse as “predators” circle around due to his disastrous handling of the war in Ukraine, claims a KGB expert.

Yevgenia Albats, who now lives in exile, said Putin can no longer keep at bay competing power groups that want to take over the Kremlin.

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Sergey Kiriyenko, 60, is one of the contenders said to be keen on ousting PutinCredit: East2West
Agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev, son of former FSB director and hardman Nikolai Patrushev, has been accused of plotting to overthrow Putin

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Agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev, son of former FSB director and hardman Nikolai Patrushev, has been accused of plotting to overthrow PutinCredit: East2West

The Russian investigative journalist said Putin faced a “lunch of the predators” and a “war of all against all” in his inner circle.

More than two decades ago Albats wrote ‘The State within a State’ about how the Soviet-era KGB secret service had taken control of the new Russia. 

Now she sees Putin – a former KGB spy – losing his ability to control the powerbrokers because of his seriously weakened political state by his blunders in Ukraine.  

“The fight has begun inside the very top echelons of Russian power,” she told independent Russian TV channel Rain.

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“We are witnessing the lunch of the predators.

“What’s happening now is a key manifestation of breakdown within the power [structures].

“And of the fact that Putin can no longer act as mediator between various interest groups –  that the war of all against all has begun….”

Albats – forced to flee Russia in September after being declared a “foreign agent” – said: “And I want to hope this will crash this inhumane regime, [which is] killing people in Ukraine and its own mobilised people in Russia.

“[What we now see] is war at the very top of the power echelon. 

“And Putin can no longer serve as a mediator, which is his key function. Therefore, he [Putin] is next.”

She pointed to a number of recent incidents showing Putin’s real power seeping away.

These included a campaign to oust his defence minister Sergei Shoigu and leading generals by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, 46, and Putin’s “out of control” fixer Yevgeny Prigozhin, 61.

She highlighted the “extortion” of TV journalist and former opposition presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak – known as Putin’s “goddaughter” – who fled to the West last week in the face of criminal charges leading to a possible 15 year jail term. 

Charges against her were recently dropped and it’s reported she’ll be returning to Russia from exile in Lithuania soon.

Many assumed Putin would have protected Sobchak, 40, whose father Anatoly, ex-mayor of St Petersburg, was his mentor and former law professor. 

Among other scores being settled included the raiding of the Moscow home of uber-loyalist journalist Andrey Karaulov – now in Dubai – and another Kremlin-supporting editor Modest Kolerov, who was suddenly fired from his Regnum news agency.

A common thread in the Sobchak and Karaulov cases were claims of wrongdoing made by Putin crony Sergey Chemezov, CEO of Rostec Corporation, Russia’s main arms developer.

Yet Chemezov, who spied for the KGB alongside Putin in East Germany and is now a billionaire, is seen as having upset the Kremlin president over the poor quality of Russian arms in Ukraine by failing to develop Western-quality high technologies.

“Modest results have been demonstrated in the areas for which Rostec is responsible,” said Putin in a crushing attack at a meeting of the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects.

Chemezov, 70, appears to be lashing out in a bid for survival, some observers claim.

In the past, Putin would have dampened such flames, but now powerbrokers close to the Kremlin are flexing their muscles and he cannot stop them, Albats suggests. 

Other observers see a fight for the succession cranking up between key Putin aide Sergey Kiriyenko, 60, a former Russian prime minister who is now deputy chief of staff in the Kremlin, and Dmitry Patrushev, 45, the agriculture minister, and son of secretary of Putin’s security council, Nikolai Patrushev, 71.

Putin can no longer act as mediator between various interest groups –  that the war of all against all has begun….

Yevgenia Albats

'Out of control' Yevgeny Prigozhin, 61, runs the Wagner Group of Putin's mecenaries

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‘Out of control’ Yevgeny Prigozhin, 61, runs the Wagner Group of Putin’s mecenariesCredit: East2West
Putin's 'goddaughter' Ksenia Sobchak, 40, fled Russia last week over fears of being arrested

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Putin’s ‘goddaughter’ Ksenia Sobchak, 40, fled Russia last week over fears of being arrestedCredit: East2West
Putin allegedly led attempts to overthrow Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov

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Putin allegedly led attempts to overthrow Chechen leader Ramzan KadyrovCredit: East2West

In another scenario, Putin could be secretly killed and his death covered up as a “heart attack” by furious Russian generals, according to Russia expert, Dr Rod Thornton.

The King’s College London lecturer told The Sun Online that Russian military generals are losing patience with their leader and want him gone.

“The FSB [Russia’s security service] think that Putin needs to be removed because he’s gone soft on Ukraine,” he said.

“He’s pulled back from Kyiv. He’s only now concentrating on the Donbass.”

Dr Thornton said Russia’s military intelligence unit, the GRU, could be best placed to remove Putin and could move soon if they see troops lose ground in eastern Ukraine.

“They have the intelligence to do it,” he told The Sun Online.

“If you want to conduct a palace coup, you want to keep it very secret and very quiet.

“You’d get the GRU to do it and they’ve been given more and more power over the last few weeks.”

He said small band of senior security officers could approach Putin with an ultimatum to leave office or be killed.

“Then you get people on television to say that Putin has not been well and then you have a new leader,” the professor explained.

“You’d get someone to say: ‘Poor Mr Putin had a heart attack, from all the strain of his special military operation and we’ve put so-in-so in charge’.”

The Russia expert said this wouldn’t be a stretch for Russians to believe because it happened with Leonid Brezhnev, a former Soviet leader, and other communist figureheads in the 1970s.

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“They said ‘oh, they were ill’ but really they were dead’.”

It comes as Putin comes under mounting pressure from his generals to dramatically turn around his disastrous military campaign in Ukraine.

Yevgenia Albats claims Putin is quickly losing his grip on power

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Yevgenia Albats claims Putin is quickly losing his grip on powerCredit: East2West

Adrian Zorzut

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