UK urged to prepare for Russia’s sudden collapse after failed Putin coup

Britain must prepare for the sudden collapse of Russia after the failed coup against Vladimir Putin, senior government sources have warned.

In rapidly-evolving events over the weekend, the Wagner mercenary group marched towards Moscow and were just 120 miles away when a last-minute deal was struck with the Kremlin.

As part of the agreement the private military group’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, a critic of Russia’s military leadership, will be exiled to Belarus.

Since the Russian President launched his Ukraine invasion British officials have believed the war could lead to political unrest in Moscow.

But the speed of the weekend’s developments has left diplomats preparing for different outcomes.

A senior government source told The Times: “From the very beginning of the invasion, one of the most obvious scenarios was that the war could lead to political unrest back home in Russia.

“We have to wait, watch and see what comes next. This could be chapter one of something new. Or it might be all over for Wagner. We must prepare for a whole range of different scenarios.”

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said the rebellion showed “real cracks” in Mr Putin’s regime.

He told CBS News: “This was a direct challenge to Putin’s authority. It raises profound questions.”

Conservative MPs have warned it spells the beginning of the end for the Russian leader.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee and a former soldier, told the Express: “It is game-changing and it’s dangerous. We’ve moved into a very volatile period for Russia.

“The immediate may have been diffused but this is a dangerous game-changer for Putin and his days are now, in my view, numbered.

“The Wagner group may have been muted and its leader exiled but Putin is significantly weakened and his enemies are now circling, realising that his whole pretence of power is diminishing.

“When a Russian leader has to contain a coup by offering the coup leader a place in exile rather than defeating him directly then you know power is draining from the Kremlin.”

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