Like the Greek titan Cronos devouring his own children, Vladimir Putin seems determined to turn against those he was once closest to – out of fear, anger and hubris. In the process, he is only further weakening his regime.
The former deputy head of the infamous Federal Security Service (FSB), colonel general Sergei Beseda, has been moved from house arrest to the investigations wing of the equally infamous Lefortovo prison. Designed to break inmates’ wills, guards escorting prisoners through its corridors use clickers to announce their presence. This allows other prisoners to be placed face to the wall in niches along the way so that they don’t get to see who else is in there.
Beseda headed the FSB’s Fifth Service, which was essentially its overseas operations branch. In particular, he was responsible for a long-term campaign of subversion aimed at preparing the ground for a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He and his deputy are ostensibly being held on charges of embezzling operational funds. This is hardly implausible – it is pretty much standard practice that any senior intelligence official with access to a ‘black budget’ takes his cut – but this is the excuse, not the reason for his arrest.
Rather, it is clear that Putin, infuriated by the failure of his initial invasion, is looking for scapegoats. Beseda was telling Putin what he wanted to hear, either that Ukrainians were groaning under the yoke of a neo-Nazi, American puppet regime and most would be eager for ‘liberation’, or at least that they were so cowed and divided that they would offer no serious resistance.
In reality, Putin has no one but himself to blame.