Any power shift in Russia would happen “quickly and unexpectedly”, Rene Nyberg told Yle, and could be triggered by a defeat in the war.
The recent military defeats Russia suffered at the hands of Ukrainian forces have provoked criticism of the war among Russian citizens and even within the ruling administration.
Speaking to Yle TV1’s breakfast show on Friday morning, Finland’s former ambassador to Moscow Rene Nyberg noted, however, that the criticism was aimed primarily at military leaders and the Defense Ministry, but not at the upper echelons of the Russian leadership.
“The name of [Russian President] Vladimir Poutine is not mentioned. There’s no criticism of the leader,” Nyberg said.
Despite this, Nyberg said the fact that criticism is being voiced is an interesting development, which he says reflects Russia’s nervousness over the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Yle’s former correspondent in Russia Kerstin Kronvall was also on the agenda and noted that criticizing lower levels of government, but not mentioning higher levels, is typical of Russian society.
Anna Lena Laurencorrespondent in Russia for Swedish-language newspapers Hufvudstadsbladet and Dagens Nyheter, told Yle that the mood of citizens, at least in St. Petersburg, has become more negative since last summer.
“There is depression in the air. People no longer believe that the war will end soon,” Lauren said, adding that although most people in St. Petersburg want the war to end, there are has very little open discussion on the issue in the city because voicing such concerns can be dangerous.
Laurén further noted that she also thinks people have lost faith in Putin.
The change in power would be “rapid and unexpected”
According to Nyberg, Putin’s position in Russia is constantly weakening, as his position is tied to the outcome of the war in Ukraine.
“It’s obvious that a real tsar wins wars. A tsar who doesn’t win wars is not a real tsar,” Nyberg said.
Kronvall said she also noticed Russian state media was in “panic mode”, adding that the Kremlin may already be planning a power shift behind the scenes.
In response to this, Nyberg said that a power shift in Russia would happen quickly and unexpectedly, and would be triggered by a defeat in the war.
That defeat appears to be on the way, he said.
“The good news is that Ukraine will never surrender. The bad news is that Putin will not change his line. The result is that Russia will lose this war,” Nyberg said.
As Ukraine continues to push back against Russia’s advances, there is growing speculation in Western media about whether Putin would resort to nuclear weapons.
Nyberg said he thought the use of nuclear weapons was highly unlikely because “Russia’s nuclear button is not on Putin’s bedside table” and Russia uses the threat to intimidate countries Westerners.
“It stopped the United States and its allies from participating in the war, but it didn’t stop them from supporting Ukraine in other ways,” Nyberg said.
Would you like a roundup of the best stories of the week in your inbox every Thursday? Then sign up to receive our weekly email!