On 27 February it was announced that an attempt to assassinate Vladimir Putin, Russia’s PM and presidential candidate, was foiled by Ukrainian and Russian security services. The suspects, two Chechen men, were arrested in an apartment in Odessa, Ukraine on 4 January. After weeks of interrogation the two men on tape confessed the assassination plot against Putin, which was planned be carried out just after the elections on 4 March.
In early January, an explosion in an apartment in Odessa elicited a police investigation, which showed evidence of bomb-building experiments. The blast killed one man, two were arrested. They were connected to a rebellious group from Chechnya seeking an Islamist state in Southern Russia. During the questioning, the men avowed to have been hired to carry out the assassination by the Chechen warlord Doku Umarov. “The ultimate goal was to arrive in Moscow and make an attempt on the life of Prime Minister Putin”, explained one of the conspirators in the video. The bomb was planned to explode on Kutuzovsky Prospect, the avenue along which Putin often drives on his way to government offices.
According to various Russian politicians, the plot against Putin was intended to destabilize the situation in the country during the elections period and to avenge the fight against terrorism. In this regard, Nikolai Kovalev, MP from Putin’s ruling United Russia and former head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) said “the mass [opposition] protests play into the hands of Umarov, while the Russians’ choice for stability does not: this is why he planned the terrorist act.”
Many Putin loyalists praised the Russian counterterrorist policy. The head of the Defence and Security Committee of the Upper House, Viktor Ozerov, said “all Vladimir Putin’s actions, starting with his work as the FSB director and ending with his current position, have been aimed at fighting with bandit formations, organized crime and terrorism. Putin has stepped on the throat and tail of many a terrorist and this is why the preparations for such terrorist attack are hardly a surprise,” he argued.
Since 2000, several attempts to assassinate Putin have been foiled. Considering the presidential elections this Sunday some Russians reacted with scepticism, suggesting that the news was merely aimed at attracting sympathy for Putin. Recent opinion polls predict a victory for the current prime minister, who also held the presidential post from 2000 to 2008 . However, opposition protests are growing, endangering an outright victory for Putin as they are increasing the awareness of election fraud among Russians. An exemplifying Facebook message from a member of the federal political council of the opposition group Solidarnost, Vladimir Milov stated: “ Considering that an ‘assassination attempt’ on Putin was also uncovered four years ago [around the last presidential elections], I won’t even comment.”
Sources: Washington Post, Reuters, RT
Image Flickr: by World Economic Forum