Downfall: The End of Putin’s Russia

Matt Williams
7 min readJul 10, 2023

After more than twenty years of autocratic rule, murder, human rights abuses, and unbridled aggression against his neighbors, Putin’s chickens have come home to roost!

AFP/Getty Images

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade (in which case, I envy you!), you’ve been kept apprised of the events in Eastern Europe. Around 2014, things really hit the fan in the region, and the repercussions were felt around the world. The government in Kyiv, led by Russian-ally Viktor Yanukovych, was toppled amid massive protests and demands for reform. After being stripped of power by his own government, Yanukovych fled to Moscow, and a new coalition government took power in Kyiv.

Russia’s response was both brazen and unexpected. Using private military contractors (PMCs) from the company Wagner, Russia seized control of Crimea, took possession of its military facilities, and declared the peninsula part of Russia. A referendum occurred shortly thereafter (under very suspicious circumstances), where the population voted overwhelmingly to join the country.

What followed was years of conflict as Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared that they also sought to join Russia. Putin also maintained a massive propaganda offensive against the new Ukrainian government, alleging that it was run by Neo-Nazis, that Russians were being massacred in contested territories, and that the “Revolution of Dignity” was a coup orchestrated by the U.S. and NATO.

In the meantime, Putin also decided to step up his assistance of Assad’s regime in Syria and interfered with the 2016 U.S. federal election in order to mettle in American politics and direct its foreign policy — which he succeeded in rather well! Between 2017 and 2021, he managed to get Trump to withdraw from Syria, Afghanistan, tank the Iran nuclear deal, back off on North Korea, hand the Kurdish regions over to Erdogan, and stay out of a squabble between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

All of these moves benefited Russia immensely and were an absolute humiliation for the U.S., calling into question its power and international leadership. Putin could only smile and laugh as Trump stood before the world and played the grateful supplicant, sharing classified information, crafting cover stories for their secret meetings before and after the election, and saying that he (Trump) believed the Russian autocrat over his own intelligence services.

War Declared

By February of 2022, for reasons that are still subject to debate, everything hit the fan as Putin decided to green-light a “limited military operation” to liberate the separatist regions and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. In short, he dispatched 130,000 Russian troops (including elite armored and airborne units) to seize control of Donetsk and Luhansk and re-install a pro-Russian government in Kyiv.

Things did not go according to plan as resistance proved to be much tougher than expected, Russian forces suffered extensive equipment failures, and their offensive toward Kyiv failed as hordes of soldiers threw up their hands and surrendered to anyone they could. A similar fate claimed Russia’s next offensive, this one directed at Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine and a major strategic asset.

By the summer of 2022, Ukrainian forces launched their first counter-offensive and began liberating Russian-occupied territories in the southern regions of Kherson and Mykolaiv. By November, they retook the city of Kherson and forced the occupying Russian forces east of the Dneiper, effectively liberating 40% of the land occupied by Russia since the beginning of the invasion.

And now, as Ukrainian forces make their second counter-offensive, Russian forces continue to experience heavy losses, are running low on ammo, and Putin has faced a very real coup attempt; it’s beginning to feel like we’ve reached the beginning of the end of this war. Within Western political, strategic, and media circles, countless journalists, analysts, and politicians are wondering, “What’s next?” And, of course, there’s no shortage of people offering opinions on that subject.

Is this how it ends? Is this a good or a bad thing? What will the fallout be for years to come?

One thing seems clear, though. For Putin, the situation is very very bad.

After more than twenty years of firmly ruling Russia through fear, intimidation, and propaganda, Putin has made some severe miscalculations that would shake the very foundations of his regime. After two decades of cultivating an image of being the next “Iron Man of Russia,” Putin has been exposed as weak, vulnerable, and ripe for overthrow. How did we get here, you might ask?

That’s the kind of question that makes historians salivate or (in my case) hop on their computers and start hammering keys!

The Old False Flag Maneuver

Like many people alive today, I can recall when Vladimir Putin first entered onto the world stage. It was 1999. I was a student at Carleton University (go Ravens!) studying modern history — which included a course on Soviet history — and Russia was finding itself in turmoil yet again. Yeltsin had left the scene amid economic woes, territorial wars, and political disintegration. A former KGB officer who served as Yeltsin’s head of its successor agency — the Russia Federal Security Service (FSB) — was now in power.

I can recall how my Professor of Soviet History was disillusioned with Putin’s rise to power. Here was a member of the old guard who became the new leader of Russia amid a crisis, a historical pattern that went all the way back to the Russian Revolution, the Great Terror, and the Nazi seizure of power. This new leader was also leading the country into the Second Chechen War in response to a string of terrorist bombings in Buynaksk, Moscow, and Volgodonsk — aka. “the Russian Apartment Bombings.”

The first Chechen War (1994–96) was an unmitigated disaster for Russian forces and then-president Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin had ordered in the troops to prevent Chechnya from breaking away, like so many former SSRs before them. The war went very badly as unprepared Russian troops fought soldiers who were their former comrades in the Red Army. These were people who were trained, disciplined, similarly equipped, and who were familiar with Russian army tactics and weapons.

The war ended as the press increasingly criticized Yeltsin, protesters took to the streets in greater numbers, and Russian troops began refusing to fire on people they considered their former allies. But this time around, things were different. Putin had the press on his side, Russian forces were united in their desire to exact revenge, and the operation was ultimately a success. For the next twenty years, things followed a predictable pattern.

Conspiracy? What Conspiracy?

While the majority of Russian opinion appeared to favor another war with Chechnya, not everyone was embracing the fervor. Much like the lead-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, there were several red flags that did not go completely unnoticed. During the Apartment Bombings, police in the city of Ryazan arrested three men who were found planting explosives in an apartment complex, which the locals found and diffused.

The three men were found and arrested, who turned out to be FSB officers! The FSB quickly intervened and assumed total control of the investigation. Shortly after, they released a story claiming the officers were conducting a “training exercise” that didn’t involve actual explosives. The official investigation blamed Chechen terrorists, but members of the Russian Duma (including State Duma deputy Yuri Shchekochikhin) demanded a parliamentary investigation to look into possible FSB involvement.

Two attempts were mounted, but both failed as Putin loyalists in the Duma voted the motions down. An independent public inquiry was chaired by Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev, named the Kovalev Commission. It was rendered toothless as the government and FSB refused to even respond to its queries. In 2003, two key members of the commission — including Shchekochikhin and liberal politician Sergei Yushenkov — died under very suspicious circumstances.

Whereas Shchekochikhin, who campaigned against organized crime and corruption in Russian politics, fell suddenly ill the day before he was scheduled to fly to the U.S. and speak with the FBI. Yushenkov, meanwhile, was shot dead hours after registering his party to run against Putin in the 2003 parliamentary elections. Then, in 2006, former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London. Litvinenko was a well-known defector who spoke openly about the FSB being responsible for the bombings.

In other words, Putin was cleaning house of anyone suspected or claimed he had orchestrated the Russian Apartment Bombings. This is what all previous dictators have done after they performed a false flag operation. They used the attack and various “emergency measures” to kill anyone who could reveal that they were responsible.

This is what Stalin, Putin’s hero, did in 1934 when he had prominent Bolshevik and leader of the Leningrad Soviet Sergey Kirov assassinated. Like so many other talented and qualified individuals, Stalin viewed Kirov as a potential challenger and decided to murder him rather than risk him becoming an enemy. He then used the assassination as a pretext to launch the Great Terror, where he purged all political opposition and had millions of people summarily arrested and murdered.

It’s also what Hitler did with the Reichstag Fire in 1933, where he blamed the incident on the German Communist Party (KPD) and then used it as a pretext to declare martial law and purge any and all opposition, not to mention people he considered “undesirable.” This naturally included all members of the KPD, but also gays, democrats, liberals, many Catholics, and (most notably) Jews, who were stripped of their citizenship and their most basic human rights.

Like his predecessor, Putin also began a long campaign to quash opposition, civil rights, journalistic freedom, personal liberties, and protests within his own nation. Stay tuned for more in Part II…



Matt Williams

Space/astronomy journalist for Universe Today, SF author, and all around family man!