VLADIMIR Putin celebrates his birthday and turns 70 more – but it could be his last as the Russian tyrant may not live to see 71.
Putin’s more than 22 years as a mob boss running a mafia state from Moskou have see him descend from reformer and uneasy ally to tyrant and global pariah.
Once upon a time he was pictured posing outside Downing Street with Tony Blair and riding in a golf cart with US President George W. Bush.
But now paranoid and delusional Vlad remains holed up in the bubble-like environment of the Kremlin as tomorrow he turns 70.
Bloated, isolated, en rumoured to be in poor health – just how long can Russia’s war-mad leader cling to power as tough sanctions hobble the economy and embarrassing failures mount on the frontline?
Professor Anthony Glees, from the University of Buckingham, told The Sun Online he believes Putin could be ousted from power – and the tyrant might not even live to turn 71.
“These things can often happen very quickly,” he told The Sun Online.
Putin is reportedly terrified of of the possibility that could be ousted and then killed – wees obsessed with what happened to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011
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Murmurs continue of growing discontent amongst the Russian people and even the Russian elite – with protests erupting following Putin’s orders for mobilisation.
Professor Glees encouraged the West to do “all we can” to expedite Putin’s downfall at the hand of the Russian elite to stop him from doing something truly stupid and dangerous.
He told The Sun Online: “Bribe them with the sunlit uplands of a better tomorrow in which we buy their gas and oil again; offer them gold Rolexes and luxury yachts, whatever, but first they need to kill Putin.”
He went on that Putin’s early leadership saw him “kilometers van die huis af na solo-fietsrit” the West into thinking he was anything but an “kwaad, murderous despot”.
“Beneath his mask, I don’t believe Putin the man ever changed,” said Professor Glees.
“He is today exactly what he has always been a KGB man through and through.
“I’ve no doubt he was born a psychopath but first the KGB and then the past twenty years provided him with exactly the opportunity and environment he needed to hone his personality and become the cold, calculating botoxed killer we see today.”
Russia’s external weakness has been laid bare; now its internal strength will be tested
Hy het bygevoeg: ” Hitler and Stalin were both psychopathic killers whose many acts of madness were often seen by their subjects as signs of their genius.
“Putin is one of a depressingly long-line of screwballs who gain power, one way or another, and supported by their secret police, indulge their obsessions as they will.
“Think Mao-Zedong, dink, Kim Jong-un.”
“His name today stands not for Russian greatness but for destruction, slaughter, converting once flourishing cities and one of the world’s key bread baskets into thousands of square miles of scorched earth,” added Professor Glees.
Dr Rod Thornton, a senior lecturer from King’s College London, told The Sun Online if Putin is deposed over further failures in Ukraine it is likely he will have a suspicious “hartaanval”.
“There wouldn’t be much mileage for Putin – its safe for anyone who replaces him to get rid of him, you might have civil war otherwise,” said Dr Thornton.
“There is no focus for anyone who objected to have being removed if he was removed and killed – getting rid of any locus of opposition.”
The expert explained the Russians are now losing the will to fight and the war is approaching “spel verby” – especially if Putin loses hold of territory he seized in 2014.
“It is perfectly plausible in the next few weeks and months that there will be a replacement of Putin,” hy het bygevoeg.
But claiming these areas as officially part of Russia opens the door to potentially more dangerous escalations – and feeds fears a desperate, cornered Putin could try to turn the war nuclear.
Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow of the Russia from Chatham House, believes Putin’s future is in the balance and tied to Ukraine.
And he said that the Russian leader seems to be becoming increasingly detached from reality.
“They can either cling to the sinking ship as Putin goes down – because that’s the system that’s given them their wealth and security,” hy het gesê.
“Of, they can leap for the lifeboat and salvage something of Russia’s future because they may have realised by now that Russia doesn’t have a future without the West.”
Hy het bygevoeg: “The one trend that’s undeniable, in what [Putin’s] sê, is that it is getting further and further from reality with every public statement he makes.”
Nigel Gould-Davies, the former UK Ambassador to Belarus and now a Russia expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said Vlad is being driven by his “obsession with Ukraine”.
“Putin was left with the choice of abandoning his goal or going to war. He chose the latter,” he told The Sun Online.
“Nou, all Putin’s efforts to wage a limited war have left Russia militarily, diplomatically and economically weaker. He is left with the choice of full withdrawal or full-scale war.
“He is moving towards the latter. Russia’s external weakness has been laid bare; now its internal strength will be tested.”
Mr Gould-Davies added the mobilisation means the Russian people can “no longer ignore the war” as die “draft could widen quickly and compel them to fight”.
And perhaps in a final roll of the dice, Putin is once again boasting about the prospect of using nukes – perhaps in bid to test the resolve of both Ukraine and the West.
Egter, Mr Gould-Davies said Putin’s threats “lack credibility” – and pointed to the fact similar nuclear rhetoric earlier in the war did nothing to deter his enemies.
Mr Giles was also not convinced, but said he was “concerned about the willingness of Russia to be destructive for the sake of it, even if it doesn’t achieve any rational or political aim”.
“Putin is a psychopath but he is not suicidal. He knows that if he uses nukes, even so-called ‘theatre’ ene, the West will destroy him,” added Professor Glees.
“As an old KGB officer he understands the value of threats. I believe that had he been going to use WMD, including nukes, he would have already done so.”
Who is the real Vladimir Putin?
VLADIMIR Putin was born to a poor family in Leningrad in the hardship of the post war Soviet Union living under the ruthless Joseph Stalin.
He was the third child of his parents Vladimir and Maria, who lost their two other children during World War 2.
His dad was a soldier, his mum was a factory worker and Putin, according to his teachers, was an unremarkable little boy who felt like he had something to prove.
Groot word, Vlad would take up martial arts and is said to have had a change in his character aged 11 – becoming antisocial and increasingly driven.
He would join the KGB in 1975 and work various jobs in the spy agency – including as an undercover agent – before turning to politics after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Vlad would quickly rise to power – and soon was the right-hand man of the president, Boris Yeltsin, before taking over from him on New Year’s Eve 1999 to lead Russia into the new Millenium.
And ever since Vlad has been at the top table, with four terms as President and one stint at Prime Minister.
Initially appearing to cosy up to the West, Putin shocked the world when he invaded Georgia in 2008 and again when he annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Belligerent and aggressive, Vlad was a man who openly viewed the collapse of the tyrannical Soviet Union – responsible for the deaths of up to 20million people – as a tragedy and who wanted to make Russia great again.
Putin became increasingly insular and unpredictable – being accused of interfering with Western politics, killing his enemies abroad, and propping up a ragtag group of rogue states in a tinpot empire.
And it has all culminated with the invasion of Ukraine – something which may be the final chapter of Vlad’s bloody and brutal story.
Putin’s commanders believed they could roll over Ukraine in a matter of days – but now the war has been raging for eight months.
They convinced Russia troops they would be greeted with cheers and waving flags as “liberators”, instead they were faced with Kalashnikovs and molotov cocktails as invaders.
Putin’s war has become a slow and brutal quagmire – one which has seen the Russians change tactics, moving from attempts at surgical strikes to savage, indiscriminate attacks on civilians.
With further defeats on the horizon, a seemingly hopeless mass mobilisation, and a resurgent Ukraine storming towards their new “territory” – fears are growing the war could escalate once again.
Moscow has red lines in its doctrine about when to use nukes – but they are softer than those in the West.
Putin is happy to use the weapons if he considers there is an “existential threat” na Rusland.
Russia is thought to have around 2,000 nuclear weapons in their arsenal in the form of small yield missiles, torpedoes and artillery shells.
Moscow’s war doctrine is believed to be open to using nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict as an intimidation tactic – and use of such a weapon must be signed off personally by Putin.
The tactic became known as “escalate to de-escalate”.
Nato is closely monitoring Russia, with reports of Vlad’s biggest nuclear submarine on the move and a convoy linked to a nuke unit spotted heading towards Ukraine.
And it seems Putin is also escalating his hybrid war on Europe, with Russia the prime suspect in attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea.
With winter looming over Ukraine and the Russian defeats mounting, the world awaits with baited breath to see what Vlad will do next and the what response – indien enige – there will be from the West.