Vladimir Milov, Russia’s former deputy energy minister, said that Vladimir Putin has created a system where he “punished people for bad news” and, as a result, has become “really misinformed” about the war in Ukraine. Questioning the validity of reports of the President being surrounded by poor advisors, Milov suggested that it was a “two-way street” and that Putin had cocooned himself within a “self-inflicted bubble.”
Speaking to CNN, Mr Milov, who now works for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said: “To some extent, [Vladimir Putin] is really misinformed but there is another side of the coin that he was deliberately cutting himself off from undesired information.
“Putin lives right now in a sort of self-inflicted bubble. It’s a sort of two-way street.
“It’s not that there are bad advisors who are not informing him. He deliberately built a system where he punished people for bad news, and he really only heard what he wanted to hear.
He added that if any officials were to discuss the President’s failures, they would “with large certainty be recorded and reported to Putin”.
He said: “Communications between government officials are intercepted by security services.
“If two or three people start to discuss Putin taking the country in the wrong direction, this with large certainty will be recorded and reported to Putin, which is why they are afraid of talking about the failure of Putin’s policy, even inside the system.”
Numerous reports over the past few weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have suggested that Putin was unaware of the failings of his military after an unnamed US official leaked the story.
GCHQ chief Sir James Fleming, in a talk in Australia last week, also suggested that Russian generals have been lying to their leader about the situation in Ukraine.
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But Former NATO commander General Wesley Clark suggested that though the degree of lying was “shocking by Western standards”, Putin would have been aware that his officials would not tell the truth.
He downplayed suggestions that Putin had been caught blindsided by his advisors, implying that it was unlikely the President had not understood, at least to some degree, the reality of the situation in Ukraine.
He told CNN: “In the Russian system, you lie. You lie up, you lie down, you conceal information because if you tell the truth, you’ll be the first one shot when it doesn’t work.
“So, we shouldn’t make too much of this. By Western standards, it is shocking, but Putin knows how it works. He got to the top by lying to people. He knows how the system works.”
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It has been reported, however, that Putin was fed a false assessment of the effect of Western sanctions on the economy as well.
The news came just days before Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that Russian forces would focus on the eastern regions, suggesting they were withdrawing from the country’s capital.
Though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last Wednesday said he did “not believe anyone” regarding the Russia retreat, the announcement was considered a positive by Western countries.
Following peace talks in Istanbul, Turkey at the start of last week, the withdrawal was seen as the first step in finally achieving peace after nearly 40 days of the conflict.