Russian and Ukrainian intelligence services have foiled an attempt to assassinate Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sometime after next Sunday's presidential election, according to reports on Russian state-owned Chanel One television.
The reports showed taped interrogations of two men, at least one of them bloodied, who confessed to working for Dokka Umarov, an infamous Chechen militant leader. The men reportedly planned to place mines along Kutuzuvsky Avenue, a main boulevard along Putin's route to and from work.
The men were detained in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa where they were allegedly learning to make homemade bombs. The report links them to an explosion in that city in January that was initially believed to have been caused by household gas. Authorities later found explosive devices and began to investigate.
One of the men detained today survived the explosion. He said that he and a man killed in the blast arrived in Ukraine with clear instructions from Umarov, the Chechen leader. He said they were told to learn to make bombs in Odessa, then carry out acts of sabotage at economic facilities in Moscow, and eventually attempt to kill Putin. The second man detained today is believed to have escaped the January blast.
Putin Kill Plot Foiled in 2008
According to the report, one of the captured men said the man who was killed in the January explosion had been ready to be a suicide bomber if needed.
Putin is widely expected to win the March 4 vote, returning him to the presidency for the third time. Despite protests against him throughout Russia, independent pollsters say he still enjoys over 60 percent approval throughout the country.
This is not the first time authorities have claimed to have stopped an attempt on Putin's life. According to one report there have been 10 such thwarted attacks since Putin took power in 2000. Many have coincided with major events or foreign trips. In 2008 another plot was reportedly uncovered shortly before the presidential election, though Putin was not a candidate then.