The Russian elites they had been against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and they don’t support war, but they are unable to influence President Vladimir Putin, who shows no intention of being ready to stop the invasion and seems increasingly determined to go all the way, writes the Financial Times in an article (How Putin blundered into Ukraine — then doubled down), referring to its first anniversary Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The newspaper writes that during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Putin isolated himself from his relatively liberal advisers. In the first months, according to information from the newspaper, he spent them at his residence in the mountain region of Valdai with his old friend Mikhail Kovalchukwho “inspired the president to realize his historic mission” which led to the idea to invade Ukraine. In preparing for the invasion, Putin relied on the views of another friend, the leader of the opposition party in the Ukrainian Rada (parliament) and a former high-ranking Ukrainian official. Viktor Medvechuk. He, according to the publication, allegedly convinced the Russian president that the Ukrainians would welcome the Russian army “with open arms.” According to the plan, writes the Financial Times, Medvechuk would become the leader of Ukraine after the invasion, and support for him would be expressed in a video message by the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.

The invasion plan was supported by the FSB (Federal Security Service), while the Foreign Intelligence Service and the Army General Staff opposed it. Even the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, spoke against it, the newspaper’s source points out, but Putin countered that he knows the matter better.

A large section of Putin’s administration and the government’s financial staff reported to their friends that they are against the war, but they feel weak, writes the newspaper. Some liberal officials already during the war tried to persuade the president to stop the invasion, but he told them that he realizes that Russia is paying a heavy price but it is justified.

Putin reckons, the British paper’s sources close to the Kremlin say, that Russia is more committed to winning the war than the West is to supporting Ukraine. The newspaper describes a story about how one of the Russian oligarchs asked Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov why Putin did not listen to his advisers in preparation for the invasion. “Putin has three advisers, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great,” Lavrov replied to the oligarch.

Lavrov was informed of the start of the war on the night of February 24 just hours before the invasion of Russian troops began, according to the British newspaper.