Putin’s regime crumbling as spies defect and Russia keeps relatives 'hostage'

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Putin’s regime crumbling as spies defect and Russia keeps relatives
Putin’s regime crumbling as spies defect and Russia keeps relatives 'hostage'

More than 20 Russian diplomats and spies have defected since the invasion of Ukraine in a sign Vladimir Putin’s flailing regime faces collapse over the war, the Mirror can reveal.

The unprecedented swapping of sides has spurred the tyrant to put “Stalinist” restrictions on foreign postings.

Most of Moscow’s officials on foreign missions now have to accept family members being left at home during their posting, effectively kept hostage.

It is the latest of Vladimir Putin ’s cruel safeguards against further catastrophic defections as family members could be jailed or worse if an official swaps sides.

Even if family members return to Russia whilst a spy or diplomat is on an overseas posting they will be kept at home as collateral.

Teachers, civil servants and train drivers walk out in biggest strike in decade eidehiqdqikinvTeachers, civil servants and train drivers walk out in biggest strike in decade
Putin’s regime crumbling as spies defect and Russia keeps relatives 'hostage'Anyone else who abandons Russia could see family members jailed - or worse (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

It is believed ex-KGB officer Putin personally intervened and insisted on the “hostage to fortune” measures to stop further defections.

The defections are also thought to be an indication his Kremlin regime is hugely under threat of collapse over their disastrous Ukraine invasion.

Bruce Jones, one of the UK’s top Russia analysts told the Mirror: “I have been told by very senior and well-informed sources that there have been a number of defections of both Russian diplomats and intelligence officers.

“Some of them are known about publicly but in the background there are many more, possibly more than 20 and this is indicative of an extremely hazardous time for the Kremlin.

Putin’s regime crumbling as spies defect and Russia keeps relatives 'hostage'More than 20 Russian diplomats and spies have defected since the war began (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“It is likely this is being kept quiet for obvious reasons but these defections are not just to the west but across Asia as well.”

Close to one million Russian civilians have fled their homeland - many escaping Putin’s brutal draft of new recruits for the frontline.

It comes as troop losses in Ukraine frontline are soaring towards 110,000

and increasingly Putin is relying on Wagner Group mercenaries.

As many as 2,000 members of the group have been killed, many on the eastern front as Russia is sometimes losing as many as 800 soldiers in one day.

Putin’s regime crumbling as spies defect and Russia keeps relatives 'hostage'Putin has taken steps to stop further walk-outs (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Yesterday it emerged 50 Chechen political prisoners had been press-ganged to the front, adding to the legions of ex-lags now employed as cannon fodder by Wagner.

Tiger attacks two people in five days as soldiers called in to hunt down big catTiger attacks two people in five days as soldiers called in to hunt down big cat

In one Ukrainian strike alone on New Year’s Day as many as 500 troops died after apparently giving their location away by using their mobile phones.

A Ukrainian source told the Mirror: “Losses of up to 500 in one strike are a disaster, a genuine blow to Putin and his position is becoming precarious.

“Defections do reflect this as people become increasingly nervous about the future of their country and it is not looking positive for Putin.

“If something happens to him and those close to him it will happen very fast and from within but these military defeats are a very poor reflection on his decision to go to war.”

Putin’s regime crumbling as spies defect and Russia keeps relatives 'hostage'Ukrainian President Volodymyr says Putin's Christmas ceasefire is a 'cover' (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Sources revealed one plan against further defections would be to hold show trials for friends and families as a warning against traitors.

Most of the defectors are diplomats who operate from embassies and are also involved in the shadowy intelligence world.

The Mirror has been told most of them jumped sides from postings in cities in Asia and Europe.

Colonel Richard Kemp, who has worked in the top UK government intelligence organisation the Joint Intelligence Committee said:

“Western intelligence will receive potentially very useful information on what is happening within Russia.

Putin’s regime crumbling as spies defect and Russia keeps relatives 'hostage'The fighting in Ukraine has increasingly become a war of attrition in recent weeks (AFP via Getty Images)

“This development could be extremely valuable. With the disaster that Putin has brought on Russia there will be many people in influential positions who are desperate to escape.

“There will be among them diplomats and intelligence people who are looking for an alternative.”

In 2017 Russian GRU spy Artem Zinchenko was arrested in Tallinn (corr spelling), Estonia but swapped back to Russia in2018.

Last year it emerged he had fled back to Estonia as he was so upset about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said recently of the Ukraine war: “It is the worst scenario that could even be imagined in my mind and it was not only because my relatives live there but because of the huge number of innocent victims.”

And in May last year Russian diplomat Boris Bondarev, who worked at the UN in Geneva quit his job, branding Moscow’s war “intolerable.”

Bondarev said: “As a civil servant I have to carry a share of responsibility for that and I don’t want to do that.”

Chris Hughes

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