Could an assassin kill Putin? Just as the second world war would not have happened without the demonic will and agency of Adolf Hitler, so the invasion of Ukraine – and its horrific bloodshed and unspeakable human misery – is Putin’s war. Can he be stopped? The bad news is that the chances do not look good at the moment.
Putin is protected 24/7 by one of the world’s strongest security details, who have sealed him in a closed bubble. All access to him is strictly – almost manically – controlled, in much the same way as it was for Stalin and Hitler. The chances of a lone outside assassin like Fanny Kaplin – a Jewish Ukrainian woman, who, in 1918, fired three bullets into the Bolshevik leader Lenin, touching off a series of strokes that crippled and eventually killed the Soviet dictator – getting to the dictator are zero. If Putin is to be stopped, ousted, and arrested or assassinated, the authors of such an attempt will have to come from within the clique who surround him. Desperate times spawn desperate remedies, and only when the clique think that their own futures are directly imperilled by Putin’s increasingly dangerous actions are they likely to act.
Putin has already publicly humiliated members of his inner circle by berating them when they have raised the mildest of questions about his actions. They cannot have much affection for this supremely unlovable man. But will their growing doubts about him overcome their fears for their own futures?
History is replete with examples of successful assassinations carried out by the intimates of dictatorial rulers. Julius Caesar was, of course, killed by members of the Roman Senate; numerous Roman emperors like Caligula were murdered by their Praetorian guards, and at least one – Claudius – was probably poisoned by his own wife Agrippina.