Vladimir Putin is likely to be toppled by Moscow's military elite if he orders a nuclear attack on Ukraine, a leading expert has suggested.
The British source, who advises governments on Russia, insists that the Russian President would be on the receiving end of a Kremlin coup if he did try and reach for the red button.
"A military mutiny is the most likely end for Putin’s rule," the source told the Daily Mirror.
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It is understood that the Russian elite currently feel that Putin's nuclear posturing is proving effective against the West, according to the expert.
But, if he orders an actual strike, senior officers are likely to mutiny and mobilise against the Kremlin, forcing Putin to step down or die.
The source added: "Faced with Putin’s recklessness and the need to prevent use of nuclear weapons, the military are most likely to stage a coup to depose him.
"The second most likely group are Putin’s Presidential Administration of acolytes, ex-KGB spies and ex-military led by Evgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin. So far they think his nuke statements are serving their purpose."
The source says the most likely replacement will be Putin’s confidante Prigozhin, 61, dubbed Putin’s Cook, because his high-end catering firm worked for him.
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But he has close links to Moscow GRU spooks and founded the mercenary Wagner Group, dubbed "Putin’s private army."
Other possible endings include "popular uprisings, disorder, insurrection and breakaway by Siberia, the far east and far north regions".
Military experts also believe Putin is considering special forces attacks on Western infrastructure similar to the breaches of the Nord 1 and 2 gas pipelines.
Expert Russia commentator Bruce Jones said: "In a sense, Russian forces are more adept at this sort of special forces operation than at the complicated large scale invasion of Ukraine."
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