Vladimir Putin ‘could be toppled in secret plot by inner circle’, ex-CIA chief claims

Former Moscow station chief Daniel Hoffman has speculated that such a plot would happen ‘all of a sudden – he’ll be dead’

Related: G7 leaders mock Putin’s bare-chested horse-riding pictures

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Vladimir Putin could be toppled by a secret plot by his own inner circle, a CIA insider has claimed.

Former Moscow station chief Daniel Hoffman claimed Mr Putin’s comrades would look to oust him if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fails.

Hoffman said any such attempt to overthrow the president would be sudden, swift and potentially deadly.

“These guys that are going to do it are going to be so secret about it, so that Putin doesn’t find them and kill them first,” said Mr Hoffman. “It’ll happen all of a sudden. And he’ll be dead.

Russian security council secretary Nikolai Patrushev with Putin in 2015

“Nobody’s gonna ask, ‘Hey Vladimir, would you like to leave?’ No. It’s a f***ing hammer to the head and he’s dead,” he told The Daily Beast.Or it’s time to go to the sanatorium. They schwack him for it. That’s what they’ll do.”

There is also continuing speculation about Mr Putin’s health, which has raised questions over his future leadership of the country.

According to Mr Hoffman, there are three key figures to keep a watchful eye on should the Russian president be replaced.

They are defence minister Sergei Shoigu, who has played a crucial role during Russia’s war in Ukraine; Nikolai Patrushev, the chief of Putin’s Security Council; and Alexander Bortnikov, the director of Russia’s secretive intelligence agency the FSB.

Russia hit a residential building in Kyiv on Sunday in the first airstrike on the capital for three weeks

Another former CIA officer, Ronald Marks, also said that Russia could be on its way to getting a new leader, which would prompt “a mad-dash scramble” for power.

It comes as Mr Putin’s war on Ukraine entered its fifth month. While it was widely considered a botched operation at the start, more recently Russia has been making gains in the east.

Russian forces are seeking to seize the last remaining Ukrainian strongholds in the eastern Luhansk region after taking full control of the charred ruins of Sievierodonetsk on Saturday.

On Sunday, Mr Putin launched the first airstrikes against Kyiv in three weeks, as world leaders gathered for the G7 summit in Germany.

Attending the summit, Boris Johnson urged Western allies to stand firm over Ukraine.

“The consequences of what’s happening for the world are tough,” he said. “But the price of backing down, the price of allowing Putin to succeed, to hack off huge parts of Ukraine, to continue with his programme of conquest – that price will be far, far higher, and everybody here understands that.”

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