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Target Number One: Top 5 Assassination Attempts on Heads of State

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Photo: Since the emergence of the institution of statehood, assassination attempts on high-ranking officials have occurred with enviable regularity, Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko
Photo: Since the emergence of the institution of statehood, assassination attempts on high-ranking officials have occurred with enviable regularity, Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko

Political games, intrigues, conspiracies, and contract killings are an inseparable part of human history. Since the emergence of the institution of statehood, assassination attempts on high-ranking officials – princes, kings, military dictators, presidents, and prime ministers – have occurred with enviable regularity. If one were to compile all the cases of political assassinations into a single encyclopaedia, it would result in an endless "Game of Thrones" spanning centuries, where determining the victor is challenging, but evaluating the consequences is not. Take, for example, the aftermath of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the eve of World War I. Today, with the efforts of the "Axis of Evil" participants – Russia, China, Iran, and their numerous allies – any point on the globe could ignite, and assassination attempts on heads of state could play the role of those very "black swans" Nassim Taleb once wrote about and warned against.

However, the recent assassination attempt on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is unlikely to become such a "black swan". In contrast, in countries that are in a hot phase of confrontation with an aggressor, such attempts are not uncommon and can indeed cause significant problems for state governance. For instance, in November 2023, President Zelensky revealed in an interview with British journalists that at least five assassination attempts on his life had been thwarted since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. The latest failed attempt occurred recently; on 7 May, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced that it had uncovered a plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky and the top leadership of the state. During the operation, two colonels from the State Security Administration, responsible for the president's security, were detained. Besides the president, the plan included eliminating the head of the SBU Vasyl Malyuk, the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate Kyrylo Budanov, and other high-ranking officials.

John F. Kennedy: The Birth of Conspiracy Theories


Source: Wiki

On 22 November 1963, the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, arrived in Dallas as part of preparations for the presidential elections. Kennedy was driving through the city streets in an open car, accompanied by his wife Jacqueline and Texas Governor John Connally, as part of the presidential motorcade. As the limousine passed the Texas School Book Depository at the corner of Elm Street and Houston Street, the first shot rang out.

Two bullets from a sniper rifle struck Kennedy, hitting him in the back and head. He was rushed to Parkland Hospital, where he was pronounced dead almost immediately.

An hour and a half after the "shots in Dallas," Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. He remains the only officially recognized perpetrator of one of the most infamous assassinations in 20th-century US history. Before his arrest, Oswald managed to kill a patrol policeman who tried to stop him on the street. The lone gunman denied his guilt until his death, which occurred two days later when he was shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while being transferred under police escort.

The assassination was investigated for ten months by a specially convened commission led by US Chief Justice Earl Warren ("the Warren Commission"), which concluded that the crime was committed by lone criminal Lee Harvey Oswald. However, subsequent information suggested that Oswald may have had conspirators behind him. This ambiguity in the investigation's findings, some of which were classified, sparked genuine conspiracy theories and numerous alternative explanations regarding who really killed Kennedy. These theories included a conspiracy involving US intelligence services, the Italian mafia, and, of course, a Soviet connection.

Lee Harvey Oswald led a very peculiar life: he arrived in the Soviet Union in 1959 on a tourist visa and sought political asylum. He justified his desire to stay in the USSR by citing his proletarian background and the class difficulties of living in a capitalist society. Oswald did not stay long in Moscow, as the KGB was not keen on the idea of a former US military serviceman, who had worked with reconnaissance aircraft, living in the Soviet capital. Oswald moved to Minsk and worked at a radio factory for a while. However, by 1962, he had changed his mind about living in the USSR and returned to the US with his Soviet wife, Marina. Was Oswald a recruited KGB agent? There is still no definitive answer to this question.

In 2021, then-US President Donald Trump signed an order to declassify nearly three thousand archival documents about the assassination of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. Yet, the full truth about this dramatic event remains elusive – over 70% of Americans still do not believe the official version of the assassination. Some even believe that the real Kennedy died at the age of 103 and that a double was killed in Dallas. What can be said? Thanks to Hollywood films and TV series that continue to exploit this topic, the world has come to believe in this conspiracy theory as well.

Ronald Reagan: Shots for Love


Source: catalog.archives.gov

On 30 March 1981, there was an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan – in the safest hotel according to the special services and for very strange reasons. That day, the newly elected US president was in Washington, where he was speaking at the Hilton hotel before representatives of the largest American trade union association.

The meeting took place in a special hotel – after the assassination of J.F. Kennedy, American special services began to approach the security of the state’s top officials more carefully and responsibly. For this reason, since the early 1970s, this Hilton hotel had been inspected by state security more than 100 times. A special corridor was even built in the hotel for presidents in case of danger. It was from this corridor that Reagan emerged to address representatives of the American media and citizens waiting for the president outside the building. However, he did not manage to reach the car parked a few metres from the exit, as John Hinckley awaited him on his way.

This 26-year-old man suddenly pulled out a gun and fired six shots at Reagan. None of the shots hit the target, but the president was still wounded.


Photo: Moment right before shooting, Source: Texas.Humanities.Wiki

The first shot hit the head of the president’s press secretary, James Brady, the second shot grazed police officer Tom Delahanty, the third bullet shattered a hotel window, the fourth wounded Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, the fifth struck the presidential limousine, and only the sixth ricocheted off the car and hit Reagan in the chest, lodging in his lung. In the end, none of those injured in the attack died.

The shooter was detained on the spot, charged with 13 counts, but was sent to compulsory treatment at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington by court order – due to the motive that drove the young man to attempt the assassination of the president. The investigation revealed that John Hinckley was obsessed with American actress Jodie Foster – his obsessive love developed after he watched Martin Scorsese’s film “Taxi Driver”, in which the young Jodie Foster starred alongside Robert De Niro. Hinckley engaged in full-fledged stalking, desperately seeking Foster’s attention – writing her letters, calling her on the phone. After not receiving reciprocity, he decided to make a grand gesture, which, in his words, was meant to be “the greatest expression of love in world history” – to kill the President of the United States.

In 2016, the court deemed the lovesick psychopath safe for society and released him from the psychiatric hospital, but with a number of restrictions, including a ban on owning weapons, consuming alcohol, and any attempts to contact the Reagan family or actress Jodie Foster.

Olof Palme: The Mysterious Killer


Source: palmecenter.se

On 28 February 1986, in Stockholm, Prime Minister and leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, Olof Palme, was returning home with his wife Lisbeth from the "Grand" cinema in the city centre. There was no security with them, as Palme preferred private walks without official accompaniment. At the intersection of Sveavägen and Tunnelgatan, a man approached the couple and fired twice with a revolver at the Prime Minister, resulting in Olof Palme’s instant death. This crime became yet another political assassination, the reasons and perpetrator of which remain unresolved.

In December 1988, Christer Pettersson, a mentally unstable man with no fixed occupation and a history of drug use, was arrested for the murder of Olof Palme. The investigation revealed that Pettersson had a connection with criminal Lars Tingström, nicknamed "the Bomber," with whom he had previously been imprisoned. They had a pact that if Tingström was incarcerated again, Pettersson would avenge him in a way that would go down in history. Both harboured extreme animosity towards the Swedish Prime Minister.

Lisbeth Palme supposedly identified Pettersson, and the court found him guilty of the murder, sentencing him to life imprisonment. However, in 1989, the appellate court overturned the verdict due to insufficient evidence: the murder weapon was missing, and the prosecution's case relied mainly on witness testimony placing Pettersson in the vicinity of the crime at the time it occurred. Nevertheless, in an interview with a newspaper, Pettersson later confessed to the murder. His accomplice, Tingström, died in prison, having shared the story of their crimes with his lawyer, who was sworn to secrecy for ten years. According to Tingström, Pettersson had a pistol similar to the one used to kill the Prime Minister, and after Palme's death, Tingström remarked, "The order was wrong. The king was supposed to be first, followed by Palme."

In September 2004, Pettersson fell into a coma due to a head injury and died on 29 September.

Other theories surrounding the Prime Minister’s murder include: the "Kurdish connection," related to Palme’s active efforts to end the Iran-Iraq war; the involvement of Yugoslavian intelligence services; and a mistaken identity theory (suggesting Palme was mistaken for a well-known Swedish drug dealer). In 2006, an anonymous call to the Swedish weekly "Expressen" informed journalists that the murder weapon was in one of the Swedish lakes – and indeed, divers found a pistol at the specified location, but it was ultimately determined to be unrelated to the murder.

The case was seemingly resolved on 10 June 2020, when Swedish prosecutors announced the crime had been definitively solved: it was established that designer Stig Engström, a witness and one of twenty people near the crime scene, had killed the Prime Minister. However, charges could not be brought against him, as Engström had committed suicide in 2000. The case was closed, but Swedes continue to propose alternative theories regarding the event.

Yitzhak Rabin: Assassination with a "Blank Shot"


Source: embassies.gov.il n

On 4 November 1995, 73-year-old Yitzhak Rabin, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, former military general, and then Prime Minister of Israel, addressed a massive rally in support of the peace process at Kings of Israel Square (now Rabin Square) in Tel Aviv. As Rabin approached his car, a man from the crowd fired three shots at him. Yitzhak Rabin died from his wounds 40 minutes later at Ichilov Hospital. In March 1996, the court sentenced Yigal Amir, an ultra-right religious and political extremist, to life imprisonment in solitary confinement. Amir claimed he was defending the Israeli state from the "Oslo Accords"—bilateral secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (participants in the accords included Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat, and Bill Clinton).

In his final speech, Rabin said, 

"I have served in the army for twenty-seven years. I fought as long as there was no prospect for peace. Today, I believe that there is a chance, a very real one."

As current events in the Middle East indicate, this chance was tragically missed. Rabin's assassination caused significant resonance both in Israel and worldwide, sparking various rumours and theories. Since Yigal Amir was a member of the underground ultra-right extremist organization "Eyal" (Lions of Judah), this fact fueled suspicions of a conspiracy.

First and foremost, the inaction of the "Shabak" (Security Service), which failed to prevent the assassination, raised eyebrows. This led to rumours and theories about high-level government and intelligence agency involvement in the assassination. This version was supported by the fact that the assassin had a friendship with a "Shabak" agent named Avishai Raviv, who allegedly knew about Amir's plans but was never prosecuted. One theory suggests the assassination was staged by Israeli intelligence services to boost Rabin's popularity in the upcoming elections (a common outcome following an assassination attempt on a public figure). Amir was supposedly given blank cartridges by the "Shabak" but replaced them with live rounds due to his own plans and beliefs regarding the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Another version claims the "staged" assassination was orchestrated by Shimon Peres, with accusations directed at the intelligence services for using Amir and independently switching the blank rounds for live ammunition.

Regardless of the theories, after his death, Yitzhak Rabin became a national symbol for Israeli left-wing politicians, leading to Shimon Peres coming to power and triggering a wave of attacks on opposition forces led by Benjamin Netanyahu as well as on religious Zionists, to whom Yigal Amir belonged.

Robert Fico: Bullets for the "Peacemaker"


Source: fb.strana.smer.sk

"I am against Ukraine's NATO membership and will veto it. It would simply be the foundation for World War III, nothing else. Ukraine is not an independent and sovereign country. It is under the complete influence and control of the United States... My views on the war in Ukraine are well known, including my assessment that it is a violation of international law. This war started in 2014 with the antics of Ukrainian neo-Nazis,"

these words belong to the Prime Minister of Slovakia, the so-called "Kremlin dove of peace," Robert Fico, who was the target of an assassination attempt on May 15, 2024, in the town of Handlová, resulting in severe gunshot wounds and subsequent hospitalization. According to witnesses at the scene, Fico approached a group of people greeting him when several shots were fired, and Fico fell to the ground.

The assailant turned out to be 71-year-old Slovak writer Juraj Cintula, who expressed his disagreement with the Slovak government's policies through his actions. Ironically, Cintula was connected to the banned paramilitary organization Slovenskí Branci, which engaged in military training for youth and collaborated with pro-Putin Russian bikers "Night Wolves," FSB military instructors, and supported the "independence" of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, Kremlin's puppet regimes in eastern Ukraine.

However, many political analysts view Fico primarily as a populist and a "political chameleon," who changes his rhetoric according to the situation. For example, in April 2024, during a joint press conference with Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, Fico stated that Slovakia did not plan to hinder Ukraine's path to the European Union.

"We are not a country that will create obstacles for you on your path. On the contrary, we want to help, to provide you with our experience regarding accession negotiations," the politician said.

Fico's anti-Ukrainian rhetoric is often explained by personal resentment towards the Kyiv government due to the gas crisis of 2009, when Moscow stopped gas transit to EU countries through Ukrainian territory, causing a crisis in Slovakia in the middle of winter. At that time, Fico, also serving as Prime Minister, first visited Kyiv, where he endured a very humiliating speech from then-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the presence of the press, and was then warmly and pompously received in the Georgievsky Hall of the Kremlin.

One can only wish the democratically elected Prime Minister a speedy recovery and hope that although a few bullets might not rid him of old grievances, they might at least make him ponder the dangers of befriending dictators like Putin.



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