Putin successor will be ‘more aggressive’ – with ‘real Russian fascism’ a genuine prospect

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Putin ‘facing serious problems inside Russia’ says Kurt VolkerRussia may slide into full-blown fascism should Vladimir Putin be toppled as President, a journalist and expert in Russian politics has warned. Owen Matthews, who has just published his new book, Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin’s War Against Ukraine, was speaking at a time when Putin is smarting following Russia’s retreat from the strategically vital southern Ukrainian city of Kherson.He responded by ordering multiple missile launches which left 10 million people in the country without power supplies.With widespread concern at how the war is panning out, nine months after Putin ordered his invasion on February 24, multiple names have been floated as possible successors including Yevgeny Prigozhin, who bankrolls secretive mercenary army the Wagner Group, and Nikolai Patrushev, the 71-year-old secretary of the Security Council of Russia.However, Mr Matthews said anyone in the West dreaming of an end of Putin’s regime should be careful what they wished for. Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner Group chief, is sometimes seen as a possible Vladimir Putin replacement (Image: GETTY) Nikolai Patrushev is the head of the Security Council of Russia (Image: Getty)Mr Matthews, who worked as Newsweek’s Moscow Bureau Chief from 2006 to 2012, told Express.co.uk: “So far, his grip on power is very secure because his grip on propaganda is secure. There is no obvious successor.“And though large swathes of the Russian government and business elite is desperately unhappy about the war, the tiny group of men at the top apparently believe that everything is going well.“What had turned out to be a disaster for Russia was not necessarily a disaster for the ‘siloviki’ around Putin.READ MORE: Hunt’s budget has ‘backed Red Wall Tories into corner’, says pollster Yevgeny Prigozhin bankrolls Wagner, sometimes seen as Putin’s private army (Image: Getty)“Russia’s elite, thanks to sanctions, had been forcibly decoupled from their assets in the West – and, in the view of the siloviki, from their divided loyalties too.”Mr Matthews added: “The important thing to remember is that the opposition to Putin, both in the country and in the Kremlin, is composed of people who are much more dangerous and aggressive than Putin himself.“In that sense, regime change is very dangerous for Ukraine and for the world, which is one of the principal tragedies and jeopardies of the war’s endgame.”DON’T MISSChina tests Western allies as Scholz and Biden ‘headed for collision’ [REVEAL]Rishi Sunak to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping [INSIGHT]Rishi Sunak calls on Putin to end Russia’s ‘barbaric’ war [ANALYSIS] Vladimir Putin’s grip on power is secure for now, said Owen Matthews (Image: GETTY) Celebrations in Kherson after the Russian retreat (Image: Getty) Whoever replaces Putin in a defeat scenario will be from the ultranationalist opposition to Putin, not some pro-Western liberalOwen MatthewsReferring to Putin’s increasingly strident rhetoric, which has seen him hint at the use of nuclear weapons, Mr Matthews said: “There’s no feasible scenario by which that would help him on the ground. It’s military and ultimately regime suicide for him to use one.“But it has worked in one very significant way – many Western leaders, led by Emmanuel Macron, are wary of encouraging a full victory for Ukraine on the ground for fear of creating a revolutionary situation in Russia.“Whoever replaces Putin in a defeat scenario will be from the ultranationalist opposition to Putin, not some pro-Western liberal. Vladimir Putin profile (Image: Express)“In that sense Putin is not Hitler, he’s Kaiser Wilhelm II – the arrogant idiot who got his country into an unwinnable war, which if followed by a humiliating peace will lead to the rise of real Russian fascism.”  Mr Matthew’s book traces Putin’s transformation from calculating and subtle master of political opportunity to a reckless gambler whose aggression threatens to destroy Russia itself.He explained: “This book focuses on the most compelling mystery at the heart of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – how did the idea of violently carving out a Greater Russia, backed up by mystical Orthodox nationalism, travel from the marginal fringes of Russian politics to becoming official Kremlin policy? Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin at opposite ends of a very long table in the Kremlin (Image: Getty)“How and why did Putin decide to throw decades of carefully constructed macroeconomics and diplomacy out of the window and launch a war so reckless and risky that the details were kept even from most of his most senior ministers right up until the very moment of the invasion? “Who were the dogs fighting under the carpet – as Churchill memorably once described Kremlin infighting – who battled for Putin’s ear, heart and mind? “The story of the war cannot be told in full until it’s over. But Overreach is the story of how the war began. I’m delighted to be working with Joel Simons and the world-class HarperCollins team to produce this first draft of history.”Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin’s War Against Ukraine by Owen Matthews, is published by HarperNonFiction

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