“One of Moscow’s most senior military commanders was arrested on Thursday after Vladimir Putin promised to “purify” Russia of traitors in a sign of “real discord” in the Kremlin over the war, according to a British minister.
It came as US intelligence said at least 7,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine, including three generals, with up to 21,000 soldiers injured.
That “conservative” estimate is greater than the number of American troops killed over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
The losses appear to be leading to a purge of Putin’s top military and intelligence commanders, including General Roman Gavrilov, the deputy head of Russia’s National Guard, on Thursday.
Increasingly isolated and angry, the Russian president this week used a TV appearance to lash out at “traitors”.
“Russian people are able to distinguish between true patriots and scum and traitors, and simply spit them out like a fly that flew into their mouths,” Putin told an online meeting of the Russian cabinet.
“I am convinced that a natural and necessary self-purification of society will strengthen our country.”
James Heappey, the UK Armed Forces minister, said the language was “fanatical” and “hugely dangerous”.
“There’s a desperation that might make him consider a course of action we would view as very dangerous indeed,” Mr Heappey told The Telegraph. “I’m deeply concerned about where his state of mind is at and how desperate he may become.”
He added that the developments within the Kremlin were evidence of “real discord” at the top of the Russian high command.”
Comment: Who will rid us of this damned fool? pl