Members of Vladimir’s Putin’s inner circle are plotting to topple the Russian premier, Ukrainian intelligence officials have claimed.
A small band of the elite are said to have become frustrated at the personal cost of the war due to the effects of sanctions, and the lack of progress on the ground.
It has been claimed the cell wish to install spymaster Alexander Bortnikov in Putin's place.
Bortnikov, 70, is head of the internal spy agency the FSB, and is thought to be one of Putin’s closest advisers.
However, it has been suggested that relationships between the two men have become strained, with the FSB blamed for blunders including underestimating the strength of Ukrainian resistance and overestimating the effectiveness of the Russian forces and saboteur cells.
Thousands of Russian troops have been killed and the ‘special military operation’ has ground to a halt in many areas, with reports of poor morale among tropps, lack of supplies and poor logistics.
Ukraine's resistance against Russia has been strong
Among the conspiracies being considered to remove Putin are poisoning or an “accident”, according to Kyiv sources.
A Western source said there is “significant suspicion” a small group of plotters will try to get rid of the Russian president.
The cell wants the change as soon as possible, Ukrainian intelligence says.
Putin has sacked eight generals to divert blame from himself as the war drags on.
The paranoid leader has publicly ranted about “traitors” he suspects of being disloyal, possibly by leaking information.
Watch: Vladimir Putin praises Russian troops as assault on Ukraine continues
The plotters picked Bortnikov as they believe he could spearhead the restoration of economic ties with the West, according to Ukrainian intelligence.
Members of the elite are increasingly worried about Russia being a pariah state, and having their houses, bank accounts and yachts seized – and their ability to travel and do business hampered.
An FSB boss was sacked over errors before the invasion, and Bortnikov has been left in disgrace with Putin.
Vladimir Putin relies on a close circle of advisers
A Ukrainian intelligence source said recently: “The official reason for the disgrace of [Bortnikov] is the fatal miscalculations in the war.
“Bortnikov and his department were responsible for analysing the mood of Ukraine and the ability of the Ukrainian army.”
It is also suspected that tip-offs from Putin’s inner circle of spies have helped Ukraine ambush the invaders and foil the numerous attempts to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The claims of a plot to topple Putin come from information leaked by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence Main Intelligence Directorate.
It has been suggested that the leak may have been made to sow dissent within the top echelons of Putin’s regime, where officials have a habit of dying suddenly events turn against them.