UKRAINE has claimed an elite unit of the Russian military has been deployed to firm up security in Moscow as paranoid Vladimir Putin fears he could be deposed in a coup.
Kyiv’s intelligence officials briefed local media on unverified reports that Putin’s fearsome ODON unit of the Russian National Guard had begun rounding up and arresting other soldiers.
Russian media have not made any such reports as Kyiv’s spooks claimed “all military units on the perimeter of Moscow have been put on high alert”.
Ukrainian officials also claimed traffic in the city centre had been stopped – but so far there are no such reports emerging from the city of 12million people.
It came just hours after Putin’s prized bridge from Russia to annexed Crimea was blown up in a suspected attack by Ukraine.
Kyiv however has not claimed responsibility – and instead some officials have been sowing the seeds that the attack could have been as the result of “infighting” in Russia.
Ukrainian reports of the ODON guardsmen moving into Moscow could be further attempts to sow division amongst Putin’s fractured ruling elite and military brass.
ODON troops – officially named the Separate Operational Purpose Division – are an internal security division of the Russian National Guard.
The special rapid response unit is comprised of around 18,000 men and is headed up by Major General Nikolai Kuznetsov.
Kyiv intelligence claimed the ODON forces have been deployed in Moscow and “numerous arrests, detentions and blockades have taken place”.
Once again, none of these claims have been independently verified and have not been addressed by state media in Russia.
However, it comes amid a time of growing dissent over Putin’s disastrous war in Ukraine.
Frustration appears to be growing at Vlad’s failures with Russia making no meaningful progress in the war for months.
With sweeping offensives, the Ukrainians are consistently on the front foot and have retaken swathes of land in the east and south.
It is thought the war could even be “over by Christmas” as the troops could reset Ukraine’s borders to what they were before the invasion.
Putin is under pressure to achieve something to ensure the war is not a total failure.
And with the highly symbolic Kerch Bridge being left a smoking ruin, it raises the prospect the Ukrainians could even move into Crimea.
Crimea has been under Russian control since 2014.
Putin is reportedly terrified of the possibility that he could be ousted and killed as murmurs of growing discontent emerge among the Russian elite.
With tens of thousands of troops dead and his army collapsing, Vlad’s ultimate fate now seems tied to the war in Ukraine.
But its before he gives up – put could press the nuclear button.
Putin’s favourite propagandists are already demanding a tough response to the attack on the Kerch Bridge – ranging from total war to nuclear strikes on cities.
With all this piled on top of the military embarrassments and frustration from the elite, just how long does Vlad have left?
According to US intelligence sources, a disgruntled member of Putin’s inner circle has voiced disagreement over the handling of his shambolic Ukraine war.
In the clearest sign yet of growing turmoil within Russia’s top ranks, the Putin ally reportedly raised woes with the mismanagement of the war effort and mistakes made by military chiefs.
The information was deemed so serious it was reportedly included in Biden’s daily intelligence briefing, reported The Washington Post.
A Western intelligence official said: “Since the start of the occupation we have witnessed growing alarm from a number of Putin’s inner circle.
“Our assessments suggest they are particularly exercised by recent Russian losses, misguided direction and extensive military shortcomings.”
A second senior Western official said the simmering tensions are “consistent with the way in which the campaign has gone for the Russians, and the atmospherics in the Kremlin”.
“There are a lot of people who are convinced this isn’t going well or the right course of action,” they added.
Russia today launched what has been described as a “revenge” missile strike on Zaporizhzhia that killed 17 people including a child.
The Kremlin had previously warned any attack on the Kerch Strait would trigger “judgement day” – stoking the fears of further escalation in Ukraine.