With less than a week to go before the upcoming Russian presidential election, former president and hopeful candidate Vladimir Putin has reportedly been saved from an assassination plot by Russian and Ukrainian forces, Bloomberg reports.
Two men behind the plot were arrested in the Ukrainian city of Odessa. Reports suggest the pair were planning a mine attack on the Russian president (at this point almost certainly Putin) and his motorcade in Moscow sometime after the March 4 election.
An explosion last month in a residential building in Odessa had alerted Ukrainian forces to the terrorists, who were said to be acting under the orders of Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov (one terrorist died in the explosion, an apparent attempt to build a mine). Special forces then stormed the apartment at the weekend.
The plot was announced by Russia’s state-owned Channel 1 television, which aired a confession from the two men, later identified as Ilya Pyanzin and Adam Osmayev, and showed images of the violent raid in Odessa. We’ve embedded the clip below (in Russian):
The BBC reports that Ukrainian forces have refused to confirm the plot was an assassination attempt, but a spokesperson for Putin told them “this was absolutely a plot to kill the prime minister.”
Given the Ukrainian refusal and the timing of the attack, those with suspicious minds are no doubt wondering about the validity of the plot reports.
While there’s no doubt that members of the Chechen community (especially Umarov) have been involved in terrorism (and would like to target Putin), Russian experts are likely to be reminded of a series of apartment bombings in Russia during the late 1990s and early 2000s that were blamed on Chechen terrorists, but have long been suspected of being organised by the Russian secret services to propel Putin into the presidency.
Disregarding the conspiracy theories, at very least the timing is suspect — it’s thought that the suspects have been detained since at January, and the release of the information just before an upcoming election seems highly advantageous for Putin, who has seen unprecedented criticism of his government in recent months.
“It just seems like an incredible coincidence that these monsters were discovered today,” independent military analyst Alexander Golts told AFP.
UPDATE: Joshua Frost at the Registan points out that there was another assasination plot against Putin announced before the 2008 elections.
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