As students of history know, numerous Germans attempted to kill Hitler during the Nazi era. Likewise, whispers are starting to be heard about discontent Russian looking to make a change in leadership.

Putin is likely to be killed by his own allies before he has the chance to launch a nuclear attack, according to an expert. Tensions are rising as Moscow began sham referendums today which will likely see large areas of Ukraine annexed by Russia. Putin and his allies have voiced a series of thinly veiled threats against Ukraine and the West, claiming they could use nuclear weapons to defend the illegally annexed territories.

However, experts have claimed that Putin is either bluffing or he doesn’t understand the situation at his own peril.

Professor Peter Duncan at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) told that Putin was “isolated from reality” and would likely be killed before he was able to pull the nuclear trigger.

Putin has made a series of mistakes since he launched his invasion of Ukraine. He underestimated the Ukrainian people’s will to resist and NATO’s resolve. Now he has called an unpopular mobilisation which could threaten his position at home.

Prof Duncan said: “The bottom line is that Putin is isolated from reality. He just doesn’t understand either about Russia, what people think in Russia, or about what people think abroad, which is, in other words, everywhere. And that’s why he makes mistake after mistake.”

Part of this, according to Prof Duncan, is that Putin’s security services and allies are afraid of him, leading them to mislead him about the realities on the ground in Ukraine.

He said: “It’s still this old problem that people are afraid to tell him the truth. Particularly, the FSB is afraid to tell him truth so he just doesn’t know what’s going on.”

However, Prof Duncan believes that at some point, the point of no return for Russia and the world, Putin’s so-called allies would step in, and have him deposed.

If Vladimir Putin were to call a nuclear strike, either in Ukraine or in the West, he would have to go through his military commanders. At the top of that list are Russia’s Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Vasilyevich Gerasimov.

There is no guarantee that they would obey Putin’s order. In fact, Prof Duncan believes the opposite to be true.

He said: “I still think that if Putin did begin to use nuclear weapons – or if he did actually tell Shoigu and Gerasimov to use nuclear weapons – not just deploy them, but use them somewhere in Ukraine, I think it’s entirely likely that [they] would refuse and then they would have to move against Putin and kill him.

“Because they would be disobeying an order. Not that it is that easy to kill Putin, they’d have to get the people in the FSB to help them kill Putin.”

However, if Prof Duncan is wrong, and Putin’s allies follow him into the abyss of nuclear war, he expects a robust response from Ukraine’s Western allies.

He believes the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would trigger a “massive conventional attack on Russian forces” in the Black Sea region or Ukraine.

The situation could then escalate out of control as nuclear-armed NATO and Russia would effectively be at war. However, Putin would likely refrain from using nuclear weapons on Western forces or cities for fear of a “terrific countervailing attack” from NATO.

The last several days have seen the rhetoric surrounding Russia’s nuclear weapons boil over into thinly veiled, or even outright, threats.

Yesterday, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev threatened to use Russia’s “strategic nuclear deterrent” to defend territory which is expected to be illegally annexed into Russia in the coming days.

Earlier this week, Putin vowed to use “all the means at our disposal to protect Russia”. He added: “It’s not a bluff.”

However, the referendums taking place in southern and eastern Ukraine are unlikely to deter Kyiv or its Western allies from standing up to Putin’s aggression.

Time will tell how the Kremlin, and mainly Putin himself, will react to Ukraine’s continuing counteroffensive on what Moscow will say is Russian territory, but what the West, and most of the world, sees as stolen Ukrainian land.