The only way Russia’s war in Ukraine ends is with Russian President Vladimir Putin dead, Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s top military spy, said Monday.
“Leaving him a way to retreat is one of the strategies, but it is almost unrealistic,” Budanov said when asked if Putin could end this war alive. “He is a war criminal for the whole world. This is his end, he drove himself into a dead end.”
“Don’t worry, Ukraine will win,” Budanov said, speaking during an interview The New Voice of Ukraine released Monday.
Once Putin is somehow offed—and Budanov does not offer up any potential details of how an ouster or assassination may happen—the future of Russia could go one of two paths. First, Russia could be divided into multiple parts, Budanov opined. The other option, however, could lead to the “relative preservation of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation when changing the country’s leadership,” he said.
President Joe Biden, too, has suggested that Putin should not remain in power.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said in remarks delivered in Warsaw, Poland, during a visit in March.
The White House sought to walk back the remarks to some extent, urging caution at assuming Biden meant Putin should be assassinated or assuming that the Biden Administration is now seeking regime change in Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken has also suggested that it would be up to the Russian people to determine whether Putin would remain in power.
The comments from Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, though, come days in advance of May 9, or Victory Day, the day Russia celebrates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany—a date which many military analysts have warned could be a key date for escalation in Russia’s war in Ukraine. Putin has harped repeatedly on his false claim that he wants to “de-nazify” Ukraine, and Victory Day could be a pivotal and symbolic moment for Putin, whose forces have been blundering their way through the war, to try to declare victory, analysts warn.
“Putin cannot admit that he is losing to Ukraine.”
Russian forces have not been securing as many wins or moving as quickly as Putin would have liked, U.S. defense officials have said. They’ve been abandoning equipment, quitting on the spot, and stalling on roads after failing to secure the appropriate supplies to refuel. And after failing to take Kyiv, the capital, Russian forces have been retreating and regrouping to launch attacks anew in eastern portions of Ukraine in the Donbas.
And after failing to reach multiple deadlines in the war, Putin is likely scrambling for some kind of victory to bring home and tout to his country, Budanov said, adding that he is convinced Putin, for now, is planning to try to mobilize for Victory Day.
“They had the main deadline—to have time to finish by April 24… they completely failed him. The second date is to complete the operation at least in Donbas by May 9,” Budanov said.
“Putin cannot admit that he is losing to Ukraine,” Budanov warned.