On September 6, 1944 Soviet intelligence services prevented an assassination attempt on Joseph Stalin. Famous for his obsessive fear of such an assault, Stalin always took unprecedented measures for self-protection. This and the utter devotion of his private security services managed to keep him safe.
Recently declassified documents reveal that the German leadership made several attempts to eliminate the Soviet leader. One of them was made in 1943, when the Third Reich’s Otto Skorzeny unsuccessfully plotted to blow up Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt at the Tehran summit, thanks to the timely and professional efforts of British and Soviet intelligence.
In the meantime, a secret German laboratory at the intelligence service never stopped developing sophisticated spy gadgets for a new attempt. By 1944, the laboratory had developed a special weapon capable of perforating armor, a shorter, simplified version of the Panzerfaust grenade launcher but so small it could be attached to the hand with a special handcuff and easily concealed under the sleeve. This and a special pen charged with poisoned bullets were chosen as the weapons to shoot Stalin down.
The assassination operation itself was entrusted to Pyotr Tavrin, the Soviet soldier who defected to the German Army in May 1942. Originally Pyotr Shilo, he once paid his card debt off with the government money he had access to working as an official at the city counsel. He was arrested but managed to escape and resurface back as Tavrin in 1932, even completing the training courses for the junior staff. While at the front Tavrin narrowly escaped from Soviet counterintelligence and decided his safest path was to defect to the German Army.
Tavrin’s plan was to get to Moscow and connect with the leaders of the Russian underground opposition. Along with other conspirators, Tavrin had to bluff his way into the Kremlin, and attend one of the receptions there, and at some point shoot Stalin with the poisoned bullets. Stalin’s death would be the signal for the troops to land on the outskirts of Moscow to seize the “demoralized” Kremlin and replace the existing government with the leader of the breakaway Russian Liberation Army, General Andrey Vlasov. The backup plan was to shoot through the armor of Stalin’s car with the sleeve Panzerfaust when Stalin’s cortege was heading for the Kremlin.
On their way to Moscow, Tavrin and his wife were stopped in their three-wheeler by a patrol officer. Although Tavrin had an officer’s uniform on and a well-thought story, they didn’t lull the patroller’s suspicions. Added to that was the report about an enemy aircraft violating Soviet airspace in the vicinity of his checkpoint; locals soon informed the security services that a three-wheeler had taken off from the plane’s landing site, and was immediately tracked down. As Tavrin and his wife were stopped for another identity check, the patroller searched their motorcycle and found the Panzerfaust, the mine with a remote control, 7 guns and 5 grenades.
The interception operation was meticulously planned and carried out by Soviet intelligence, as they were aware of this attempt from the very beginning and were only waiting for the best moment to catch the traitors. All the opposition figures with whom Tavrin had been in contact were deliberately set up by the Soviet secret service, who had been watching Tavrin’s every step.
On February 1, 1952, the closed hearing of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court ruled Pyotr Shilo and his wife guilty. They were both sentenced to the death penalty. All appeals were overruled by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. Shilo was executed on March 28, 1952, and his wife 4 days later.