VLADIMIR Putin faces a coup to overthrow him in just a matter of months, as his security chiefs now believe the war in Ukraine is lost, an expert has claimed.
If Putin were to order a nuclear strike on the West, there is a growing chance that Russia's generals would ignore him, according to insiders.
Following the disastrous invasion of Ukraine, a coup is now a realistic possibility, says Russian analyst and investigative journalist Christo Grozev.
And his generals are less likely to listen to him as he becomes more and more isolated within the Kremlin's walls, he said.
This is due to leading security staff losing faith that Putin will still be in power in three months' time.
"I think that it is the informed elite within the security forces who understand that the war is lost," he told Radio Liberty.
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In order to win, Putin would need a full mobilisation of Russia's population, but if he did this, it would trigger a "social explosion" in the country, he added.
Although hardliners may call for the use of nuclear or chemical weapons on Russia's enemies, other generals believe "enough is enough" and don't want to waste a further 10,000 Russian lives.
Grozev, who is linked to the UK online research site Bellingcat, also gave his thoughts on the most likely next scenario.
"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," he said.
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But this could lead to one or more of Russia's "five hands" needed to launch the country's arsenal of deadliest weapons refusing to follow orders.
"And this refusal will be the trigger, most likely, of a coup d'etat because, after the refusal to comply with the order of the king, everything will go down very quickly," he said.
Grozev argues that this means the chance of a nuke strike launched by Vlad is going down.
"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.
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"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."
Grozev previously claimed that Putin's generals fear he is dying and won't follow his orders to nuke the West.
Two of the other so-called "five hands" needed to sanction a nuke strike include defence minister Sergei Shoigu and chief of defence staff Valery Gerasimov, who has reportedly been suspended.
A Ukrainian intelligence expert and adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky also claimed that Lieutenant General Sergei Kisel had been fired and arrested.
Kisel was the commander of the first tank army of the western military district and oversaw Russia's disastrous retreat from Kharkiv.
If true, this would be the largest purge of Russia's top military brass since the beginning of the war.
Whether Putin will be in power in three months is not clear to the security forces
Speaking on Sky News, Major General Kyrylo Budanov said he believes Putin's calamitous war will hit a "breaking point" this summer and be over before the end of the year.
He also claimed that Putin will be ousted before the end of the year in a coup by his top generals.
Since the start of the invasion on February 24, Putin has made a point of being seen in public with an official carrying Russia's nuclear briefcase.
But Grozev says senior figures in Russia's spy agencies the FSB and GRU are preparing now for life after Putin.
He said the "intellectual part of the GRU" understand that the Russian president is in crisis, as well as "the FSB elite" who are fully aware of Russia's devastating losses in Ukraine.
"They know that this situation will eventually get out of hand," he said. "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."
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It follows rumours the Kremlin is split over the Ukraine war after Russia's ambassador to the US claimed Washington was secretly negotiating with Moscow.
Anatoly Antonov hinted at divisions in Putin's inner circle over the war, with some ready to give up while others want to keep fighting to the bitter end.
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