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Putin tries a judo throw

Since Vladimir Putin "resurfaced" on Monday, the most feverish speculation has died down. He has not been actually overthrown. However there is little doubt that his regime is facing serious problems.

In a sense we can know this by the renewed blizzard of propaganda and misinformation being put out by the Kremlin lie machine: reporting and exaggerating splits between EU and NATO partners about the current Russian sanctions regime, for example. Then there is the report that Putin was prepared to use nuclear weapons over Crimea. Meanwhile the entire Russian northern fleet has gone on alert. The message is clear "I am dangerous, don't mess with me".

Yet as some sources report that the Russian death toll in Ukraine now significantly exceeds the initial estimates, the fact that it is the Northern fleet is significant- threatening to the NATO exercise in the Baltic, but not a further threat to Ukraine. More to the point it is a distraction for a force which is rumoured to be more disaffected with the current regime.

The split between the Chechens and the FSB is clearly real, and some forces that might be persuaded to take sides- including the armed forces- are being given jobs to do while the struggle continues.

Sooner or later Putin will have to take sides, and when he does, his regime will be in serious peril.

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