Killer in the Kremlin by John Sweeney

Killer in the Kremlin by John Sweeney – The Explosive Account of Putin’s Reign of Terror – is very different from the We Need to Talk About Putin by Mark Galeotti I reviewed recently. That one has looking at Putin’s imagine in the west. The Killer in the Kremlin covers Putin’s life and includes the controversies, such as his adoption (or not) and if he is paedophile (or not).
I think the inclusion of these ideas (adoption and paedophilia) are important because they shaped how Putin is reacting, even if they are not true. Sweeney presents the information balanced and clear, without sensationalism.

Killer in the Kremlin by John Sweeney

Sweeney covers all the important aspects of the last 20+ years, from the Moscow apartment bombings (see my review on Blowing Up Russia) to the horrific war of attrition in Chechnya.

He highlighted interesting things about Putin, for example, how much time he let other leaders wait for him. Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth and the King of Spain were made to wait for a shorter while than leaders of state (such as Obama or Merkel). It is a small thing to consider, but I didn’t realise it happened so often. Why Merkel waited for over 4 hours for Putin and he also scared her with his dog (friendly, but she is afraid of dogs), as an elected representative of a G7 country, is beyond me. It really showed how he perceives power and how poorly the west understood these stupid games of his. Also, it’s notable that the Queen was made to wait only 14 minutes, a nod to the soft power of the British monarchy.
While this is only a short paragraph in the book, I think it’s the kind of interesting detail that paints a vivid picture of Putin.

I disagree with Sweeney on two things: russian guilt and Navalny. russians are guilty. Unlike the Germans in WWII, where their access to information was limited, now there are many more sources available and even the ones in the west are not protesting or helping Ukrainians (with a few exceptions). Sweeney said that Ukrainians (he is in Kyiv) told him they don’t trust Navalny, he still thinks Navalny as an option. Navalny is just as imperialist as Putin, just against corruption. In a way, this makes Navalny more deadly than Putin. Unless russians understand what they did wrong for centuries, they will continue to be imperialists and a possible threat.

Overall the book is interesting, easy to read as he writes beautifully and engaging. I highly recommend the book. Despite not agreeing on those 2 points I didn’t take any marks from the rating as the book is focused on Putin and that is nicely done. The rest were just short mentions.

Killer in the Kremlin by John Sweeney

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Bantam Press
Year it was published: 2022
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304

About the author: John Sweeney is a journalist and author. He worked as an investigative journalist for the BBC’s Panorama series. Before that he worked at The Observer, covering wars and revolutions in more than sixty countries including Romania, Algeria, Iraq, Chechnya, Burundi, and Bosnia.
Sweeney spent four years investigating the cases of Sally Clark, Angela Cannings and Donna Anthony, three women who had been falsely imprisoned for killing their children. Sweeney’s investigation helped to clear their names, and led to Sir Roy Meadow, the expert witness whose testimony had proved decisive in their convictions, being temporarily struck off the General Medical Council’s medical register. Sweeney received the Paul Foot Award in 2005 in recognition of his work.
He has won several awards throughout his career.
Other non-fiction books: The Life And Evil Times of Nicolae Ceausescu (1991); Trading With The Enemy: Britain’s Arming of Iraq (1993); Big Daddy – Lukashenka, The Tyrant of Belarus (2012); Church Of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology (2013); North Korea Undercover: Inside the World’s Most Secret State (2013); Murder On The Malta Express: Who Killed Daphne Caruana Galizia (co-authored with Carlo Bonini and Manuel Delia, 2019).
Fiction books: Cold, Elephant Moon, The Useful Idiot.
Website & Social Media Links: johnsweeney

2 thoughts on “Killer in the Kremlin by John Sweeney”

  • I’ve never heard that about him possibly being a pedophile. Ugh. I’m not surprised to learn he makes other leaders wait when meeting with him – clearly a power thing.
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    • Yes, Litvinenko said something about that, before he was murdered. If you search something like “putin boy kiss stomach” you’ll see the pictures and there is a clip on youtube too. It’s pretty strange.

      The waiting thing is the one that troubled me the most. An elected president is made to wait for, in some cases, hours! Why didn’t they do anything? Anyone could have said that they are happy to reschedule and leave after 20 minutes or so. There are more American voters than russians in russia, and Obama was made to wait for putin. It’s disrespectful.

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