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Putin purges spies over Ukraine & hands power to ‘Salisbury poisoning chief’

PARANOID Vladimir Putin has stripped his leading spy agency of its intelligence-gathering role in Ukraine and handed over the responsibility to the alleged mastermind behind the Salisbury Novichok poisoning.

Ukrainian-born Lieutenant General Vladimir Alekseev commanded the officers responsible for the 2018 nerve agent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Putin crony Vladimir Alekseev is taking over Russian spying missions in Ukraine

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Putin crony Vladimir Alekseev is taking over Russian spying missions in Ukraine
Alekseev is alleged to have masterminded the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

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Alekseev is alleged to have masterminded the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia SkripalCredit: Rex
Putin is said to be furious at the incompetent intelligence-gathering of his spies

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Putin is said to be furious at the incompetent intelligence-gathering of his spiesCredit: Getty

The decision to remove the Federal Security Service (FSB) from its position in Ukraine comes in the face of increasing military blunders by the Kremlin’s forces in the conflict, which have been blamed on Putin’s top spies.

Their replacement, Lt Gen Alekseev, is a leading officer of a heavily militarised branch of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), and he will command Russia’s spy operations in Ukraine.

Alekseev is believed to have orchestrated the 2018 Salisbury poisoning of ex-Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Three GRU operatives, using the names Sergei Fedotov, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, were accused of attempted murder after they smeared the Skripal’s front door with the deadly nerve agent.

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The pair fell seriously ill but both miraculously survived.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, died from exposure to the nerve agent, while her partner Charlie Rowley and police officer Nick Bailey were both hospitalised.

The three GRU agents, whose real names are Denis Sergeev, Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, were under the command of Alekseev at the time of the March 2018 attack.

Born in Ukraine, Alekseev earned a reputation for his brutality during Russia’s military action in Syria and the Ukrainian Donbas region.

The former Spetsnaz special forces operative is accused by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence of being behind the “massacre of Syrian children” as well as “the destruction of his homeland”.

However, in 2017, Putin awarded him the title of “Hero of the Russian Federation” for his “courage and heroism”.

Alekseev and GRU have been brought in to replace the FSB in Ukraine due to Putin’s fury over the quality of intelligence he has received from his spies, according to senior fellows at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) Irina Bogoran and Andrei Soldatov.

“Until now, Ukraine had been the responsibility of the 5th service of the FSB,” they said. “The disastrous start to the war and the absence of popular uprisings by Russian speakers – which Putin was told would occur – cast a dark shadow over the department.”

All you need to know about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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Russia’s leader was said to be so angry at his spies that he ordered the FSB’s general Sergei Beseda arrested.

Beseda was locked up in the notorious Stalinist Lefortovo prison for several weeks.

He has since been spotted back at the FSB, according to CEPA, although this is more a sign of Putin looking to save face than an indication that he has forgiven his spy chief.

Putin also purged some 150 spies in response to the disastrous invasion last month.

He ousted the spooks from the Fifth Service group of the Federal Security Bureau – the department who were working on Ukraine.

The Fifth Service are believed to have been working in Ukraine for years to attempt to destabilise the country ahead of the invasion.

The disastrous start to the war and the absence of popular uprisings by Russian speakers – which Putin was told would occur – cast a dark shadow

CEPA

Vlad’s rage comes as the group are believed to have wasted billions of dollars on these activities which proved fruitless.

While intelligence experts have claimed Putin will be ousted in a “palace coup” staged by his inner circle.

As the war in Ukraine drags and sanctions bite, even the Russian tyrant’s cronies will see his “toxic” behaviour as a threat to their wealth and power so it’s “highly likely” they will depose him, the experts say.

The claim came from intelligence analysts Dragonfly, who correctly predicted Russia would invade Ukraine.

Their assessment is that “it’s highly likely that President Putin will not be in the position he is within the next two years” if the West ramps up sanctions.

But rather than the mass uprising like the one that deposed Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi – which he is said to fear – Putin’s end will come from within.

At a briefing, Dragonfly said that given the security around Putin, it’s unlikely such an uprising or a coup by spies and soldiers would succeed.

Russia's army has found itself out-fought and out-thought in Ukraine

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Russia’s army has found itself out-fought and out-thought in UkraineCredit: Reuters
Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, two of the alleged Novichok poisoners

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Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, two of the alleged Novichok poisonersCredit: Reuters
Denis Sergeev was the third alleged poisoner

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Denis Sergeev was the third alleged poisonerCredit: Bellingcat
Dawn Sturgess, 44, died as a result of Novichok poisoning

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Dawn Sturgess, 44, died as a result of Novichok poisoningCredit: PA

Alekseev is the latest hardline appointment by Putin, as he turns to more and more desperate means to seize victory in Ukraine.

He has also appointed the “Butcher of Syria”, Captain General Aleksandr Dvornikov, to lead the Russian offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Dvornikov also oversaw Russia’s brutal intervention in Syria’s civil war from 2016, during which time chemical weapons were used and civilian targets bombed.

It is feared the captain general will unleash deadly white phosphorus on civilians in Ukraine in the latest act of barbarism by Putin’s army.

The incendiary bombs, which burn through flesh at up to 2,700 degrees C, will be used in a desperate bid to conquer the besieged port city of Mariupol, British officials suspect.

It follows claims from the US that Putin will impose martial law on Russia in the latest escalation of the conflict.

Speaking at a Senate hearing, US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said that Putin’s aims are greater than his country’s military capabilities.

That “likely means the next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory,” she said.

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“The current trend increases the likelihood that President Putin will turn to more drastic means, including imposing martial law, reorienting industrial production, or potentially escalatory military options to free up the resources needed to achieve his objectives.”

Haines added that Putin could in the worst-case scenario order the use of a nuclear weapon if he believes Russia faces an “existential threat”.

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