Coup against Putin would be triggered if one of his top officials refused to carry out a nuclear strike, Bellingcat expert says

·3 min read
Coup against Putin would be triggered if one of his top officials refused to carry out a nuclear strike, Bellingcat expert says
putin russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends Orthodox Easter mass in Moscow, Russia, on April 24, 2022.Contributor/Getty Images
  • Putin would face a coup if he orders a nuclear strike and is disobeyed, a Bellingcat expert said.

  • Defying his command would signal insubordination that may lead to "the death of Putin," he said.

  • Some leading Russian officials already believe Putin is losing his grip on power, the expert said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin would face a coup if one of his top officials ever disobeyed an order to launch a nuclear strike, according to Bellingcat's lead Russia investigator Christo Grozev.

The coup would take place if just one of the "five hands" needed for a Russian nuclear launch defied Putin, Grozev told Radio Liberty, per the Metro news outlet.

"Because after the refusal to comply with the order of the king, everything will go down very quickly," he said, the outlet reported.

According to Metro, Grozev said Putin may be under pressure from some in his inner circle to escalate the invasion of Ukraine via the mass mobilization of troops or even a nuclear strike.

However, the Russian leader must first "be sure everyone along the chain will carry out this order" before he considers sanctioning such a launch, Grozev said, the outlet reported.

Per Metro, the investigator said that if one person in the chain of command refused to comply, it would be a "signal of insubordination" that could bring about the "death of Putin."

"So until he is sure that everyone will comply, he will not give this order," Grozev added, per the outlet.

It seems likely that leading officials won't follow through with such a command because they believe Putin is losing authority quickly and won't stay in power for three more months, the investigator said, per Metro.

To launch a nuclear strike, a decision would need to be made by the Russian president, who always has a small briefcase (or "Cheget") by his side that links him to the country's nuclear forces, Reuters reported citing a 2020 nuclear policy document.

While the briefcase doesn't have a launch button, it relays the order to Russia's central military command, per the outlet.

Even if Putin decided to launch such an attack, at least two other lead officials would also be needed to follow through with his command.

According to several intelligence reports, a nuclear strike can only be carried out if Russia's defence minister and chief of the general staff — positions currently by Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, respectively — also authorize the launch with their own codes and "Cheget" briefcases.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) and chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov attend a meeting with Russian President in Moscow on February 27, 2022.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov attend a meeting in Moscow on February 27, 2022.ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

According to the Arms Control Association, Russia claims it has an inventory of 6,257 nuclear warheads, compared with the 5,500 estimated warheads in the US.

Last week, Ukraine's military intelligence chief said that a coup against Putin is underway and that the Russian leader is battling cancer. Western intelligence agencies have not publicly verified the claims.

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