Obama aide warns Putin must take off ramp soon to salvage regime

Vladimir Putin won't hold on to power predicts Leon Panetta

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Mr Panetta believes an under pressure Vladimir Putin could start looking for a way to remove Russia from Ukraine without losing face amid a string of losses from the Russian military. Recent defeats in Kharkiv and advances by Ukrainian forces in the south have rocked the Kremlin with pro-Putin allies beginning to voice concerns publically over the conduct of the war. 

Mr Panetta told CNN: I do not see Putin being able to remain in power unless he can claim some kind of phoney victory in Ukraine, and that would mean that he has to take an off-ramp very soon.

“That would allow him to try to maintain some control of some of the areas that are there. 

“But my sense is that Putin is not going to negotiate at this point.

“My intelligence friends all make clear that Putin will continue to double down. “

“Ultimately what that means is that we are still going to have a prolonged war in Ukraine.

“Hopefully, Ukrainians can ultimately push the Russians out of Ukraine.

“That probably is the principal goal right now.”

It comes as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has begun to unravel after a Ukrainian counteroffensive in which thousands of square miles of territory have been retaken since the start of September, including dozens of settlements in recent days.

Putin to lose 15,000 troops as army forced into humiliating retreat

In a blow for Moscow, thousands of Russian troops have retreated after the front line crumbled, first in the northeast, and, since the beginning of this week, also in the south.

Public criticism of Russia’s top military brass, once taboo, is mounting after two allies of President Vladimir Putin criticised what they said was the incompetent way the war was being prosecuted.

On Thursday, a Russian-installed official in occupied Ukraine openly mused about the idea of Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister and an ally of Putin, shooting himself for his military failures.

“Indeed, many say: if they were a defence minister who had allowed such a state of affairs, they could, as officers, have shot themselves,” Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in Ukraine’s Kherson region, said in a video.

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“But you know the word ‘officer’ is an incomprehensible word for many.”

Ukraine’s military in the south said its forces had killed at least 58 Russian fighters, and destroyed nine tanks, 17 armoured vehicles and four howitzers.

Stremousov, the Russian-installed official in Kherson, said that Ukraine’s advance in the area had been halted and said what he called a decision to regroup had saved the lives of Russian troops.

Discontent with the leadership of the Russian defence ministry has begun to bubble up among even loyalist state TV hosts after the reversals.

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