Many predict the eventual end of the Putin regime, but it remains unclear how this could come about. As the nominally elected president, Putin would have to either resign or cease to exist. Indicators suggest that the process would begin with an assault on Putin’s closest associates, which appears underway.
First, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, was outed by opposition blogger Alexei Navalny for renting a yacht in Sicily for $500,000 a week. Peskov’s denial was shot down by photos on social media. Navalny’s scandal reportings are often ignored, but this story went viral on Russian mainstream media sites, including RBC, Pravda.ru and others. Peskov was already under attack by Vedemosti for owning a $620,000 watch on his civil servant’s salary.
Second, Putin insider and target of Western sanctions, Vladimir Yakunin, in the first year of a five-year contract, announced he was resigning as head of the Russian railroad monopoly to become a senator for Kalingrad province. According to a source for Forbes Russia, “If the resignation is really taking place, this means that something very serious has taken place in the last few days.” Russian press reports emphasize that Yakunin has refused to disclose the sources of his income because such matters are not discussed in polite company. Anti-corruption blogger Navalny has filled in the blanks with a 14 page inventory of Yakunin’s properties, including his castle.
Third, “longtime (Putin) acquaintance (from childhood) businessman Gennady Timchenko” is the subject of a vicious hit job in the semiofficial newspaper Vedemosti.