Russian police arrested five people who proposed officials arrest and charge Vladimir Putin with treason for his decision to launch the invasion of Ukraine, which has led to catastrophic outcomes for Russia and its interests.
“The fact that several municipal deputies in St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown, came forward accusing [him] of treason and calling for his removal is highly significant,” Rebekah Koffler, a former DIA intelligence officer and author of “Putin’s Playbook,” told Fox News Digital.
“They know the punishment will be severe. They can easily face a death sentence based on Russian federal law. The significance of this act of defiance and dissent by a handful of Russian officials cannot be possibly overstated.”
The deputies appealed to the central governing body known as the Duma to punish Putin for countless deaths of military personnel, prompting economic sanctions from other nations, motivating NATO to expand and leading Ukraine to build its military power.
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Their first point is that the president is blamed for the loss of the army, according to Russian newspaper Kommersant. The second problem is the economy. The deputies point to the withdrawal of investors from Russia and the “brain drain.”
The group also held Putin directly responsible for prompting previously neutral Finland and Sweden to join NATO, thereby increasing the alliance’s power and presence along Russia’s border.
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But, one day after seven deputies drafted their appeal, authorities ordered them to report to police for “discrediting the army.” Two of the deputies left without any further action.
Ukraine’s offensive against Russia in the contested eastern Donbas region has seen a sharp change in fortune. The Ukrainian military advanced 30 miles in just three days since Sept. 1, marking significant progress during a major offensive.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also claimed that the military managed to recapture nearly 400 square miles of territory held by the Russians over the past few months.
And Russia has suffered significant losses during its campaign. CIA director William Burns and British intelligence chief Sir Ronald Moore in July said they believed Russia had lost around 15,000 troops, with “maybe three times” as many troops wounded.
If Ukraine can maintain that momentum, it could revive pressure among officials to take action and change the fortunes of Russia, according to Koffler.
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“It is possible they decided to risk their lives in order to build momentum among the Russian people to oust Putin, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do because Putin has surrounded himself with loyal security and intelligence operatives,” Koffler explained. “Even two months ago, I would say that a coup in Russia is unlikely.
“Today, with Ukraine’s counter-offensive gaining steam and Russia having become as much of a pariah as North Korea, I don’t rule out the possibility of a regime change organized from within.”
Koffler noted that the death of Mikhail Gorbachev may have prompted this act of defiance. Gorbachev played a role in repairing relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, and his funeral drew thousands of Russians to mourn him despite Putin’s attempt to downplay the significance by ruling out a full state funeral and not even appearing at the funeral himself.
“We may be witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in Russian history,” Koffler said. “The transition period, if this is what it is, will be highly risky. After all, we are dealing with a nuclear power.”