A top commander of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) intelligence agency has been placed under house arrest amid upheaval and infighting among officials amid President Vladimir Putin’s fury over the botched Ukraine invasion, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
Russian commander Colonel Gen. Sergei Beseda was in charge of FSB’s Ukraine operation, according to the Journal, citing a U.S. official.
The unidentified American official also told the newspaper that “bickering had broken out” between the FSB and the Russian Ministry of Defense, which were the key government agencies planning the invasion.
The New York Times, citing Russian news sources, reported that a second FSB official was also under house arrest.
Russia’s military operation has not gone nearly as well as planned. CIA Director William Burns told Congress earlier this month that Putin had planned to seize the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv within two days. Yet the city continues to fend off Russian forces nearly a month after the invasion began. As many as five Russian generals have been killed in the fighting, according to Ukraine.
That’s bad news for officials surrounding Putin, observers warn.
“When it comes to this guy, it’s clear that the culture of ‘someone is at fault and is going to pay’ is clearly still operative,” former CIA and National Security Council official Jeffrey Edmonds told the Journal.
But the finger-pointing and rising fear and discontent in the Kremlin could also be bad news for Putin.
Russian history scholar Stephen Kotkin said in a recent New Yorker interview that Putin is only getting the information that “he wants to hear. In any case, he believes that he’s superior and smarter. This is the problem of despotism,” he added. “It’s why despotism, or even just authoritarianism, is all-powerful and brittle at the same time.”