A rift has grown between Putin and defense minister Sergei Shoigu over the Ukraine war, the NYT reported.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that Shoigu has been hiding the truth of the war from Putin.
Western officials believe Russian advisors fear punishment for telling Putin the truth.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and one of his closest advisors have fallen out over the war in Ukraine, according to US intelligence.
A rift has emerged between Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, US officials told The New York Times.
Shoigu is a longtime member of Putin’s inner circle, and took a vacation with him as recently as March 2021.
On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US believes Shoigu and his subordinates have been sugar-coating reports of the war for Putin.
“We would concur with the conclusion that Mr. Putin has not been fully informed by his Ministry of Defense, at every turn over the last month,” Kirby said.
For example, US officials told The Times that Putin was unaware that Russia was using conscripts in Ukraine and that some of them had been killed.
There “is now persistent tension” between Putin and Shoigu’s ministry, The Times’ source said.
Speculation over Shoigu’s relationship with Putin grew earlier this month after Shoigu abruptly vanished from public on March 11, only to resurface 12 days later.
Some US officials assess that senior Russian officials are scared of reporting truthful information about the Ukraine war to Putin as they feel they will be held responsible, The Times reported.
Sir Jeremy Fleming, head of the UK’s GCHQ intelligence agency, delivered a similar assessment on Thursday, saying: “Putin’s advisors are afraid to tell him the truth.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also suggested on Wednesday that Russian officials were unwilling to give Putin accurate information.
“One of the Achilles’ heels of autocracies is that you don’t have people in those systems who speak truth to power or who have the ability to speak truth to power,” Blinken said. “And I think that is something that we’re seeing in Russia.”
Earlier this month Ukrainian media reported that Putin was purging some of his top officials over the invasion, with one analyst saying that they may have given Putin overly optimistic assessments of Russian advances.
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