Ukraine War Ends With Putin Ousted or Killed by Russians: UK Ex-Spy Chief

Christopher Steele, who previously ran the Russia desk at the British intelligence service MI6 and author of the controversial Russia dossier, believes the Ukraine war will only end when a deal is made that probably excludes Vladimir Putin and potentially sees him overthrown or assassinated.

Since Putin declared war on Ukraine on February 24, thousands have died and millions of Ukrainians have been uprooted from their homes, many fleeing to other European countries.

Steele ran the Russia desk at the MI6 headquarters in London between 2006 and 2009. Regarded in the intelligence community as a Russia expert, he was also selected as case officer for Alexander Litvinenko and participated in the investigation of the FSB defector's poisoning, The Telegraph reported. Steele quickly concluded that his death was orchestrated by the Russian government, though the Kremlin has denied this.

In an interview with Sky News that aired on Thursday, Steele said that the peace talks between the Russians and Ukrainians were not likely to prevail while Putin is still in power.

"I don't see how we can trust Putin in any sort of peace deal that comes now, and I don't see how we can deal with him in terms of normal business going forward," Steele added.

"After all, the President of America has called him a war criminal."

Asked how he envisioned the war ending, Steele said: "I think it does end in a deal of some sort, but I think that that deal is some way off and I think it probably doesn't include Vladimir Putin.

"I think he may well be pushed aside out of the top leadership, or even possibly assassinated by his own people."

Newsweek has contacted the Kremlin for comment on Steele's remarks.

On March 8, Fiona Hill, former director at the U.S. National Security Council, said Putin is now fearing for his life and is "paranoid" about being assasinated.

"Any kind of loose talk about somebody taking him out, regime change... He's extremely paranoid about this," Hill said.

In the Sky interview, Steele hailed the mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko for his bravery through the war. Kyiv has been under attack since early in the war but Russian forces have not been able to break into the main city due to fierce defense by the Ukrainian military.

Russian forces have kidnapped and targeted several Ukrainian officials, including Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Melitopol and Yevhen Matveyev, the mayor of Dniprorudne, a city of about 18,000 people in southeast Ukraine.

Steele said: "I think people like Vitali Klitschko will be remembered for decades if not centuries as the real heroes of this period of our history and Ukraine of course. [He is] a remarkable man, incredibly brave, living in a city under siege where he's possibly being targeted for assassination. I think we absolutely have to take our hats off to him."

Steele, the former intelligence officer, became embroiled in controversy in January 2017, after an unfinished dossier he wrote about then-U.S. President Donald Trump was leaked to Buzzfeed news, seemingly without Steele's permission.

The dossier, written in 2016, was explosive, and it claimed that the Kremlin had compromising information on Trump, including scandalous allegations about the former president's conduct in Russia and his ties with the country.

After the dossier leaked, Steele spent several months in hiding for fear of his safety.

Christopher Steele
Former UK intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives at the High Court in London on July 24, 2020, to attend his defamation trial brought by Russian tech entrepreneur Alexej Gubarev. Steele, who previously ran the Russia desk at the British intelligence service MI6, believes the Ukraine war will only end when a deal is made that excludes Vladimir Putin and sees him overthrown, possibly assassinated. Tolga Akmen