Vladimir Putin 'assassination plot' foiled
Russian and Ukrainian special services have arrested a group of suspects over an alleged plot to assassinate prime minister Vladimir Putin, Russia's state television have reported.
Channel One said the suspects, linked to a Chechen rebel leader, were preparing to kill Mr Putin in Moscow immediately after next Sunday's election vote, in which he is all but certain to reclaim the presidency.
The station said the suspects had been arrested in Ukraine's Black Sea port city of Odessa following an accidental explosion which happened on January 4 while they were trying to manufacture explosives at a rented apartment. Mr Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed the report to the Itar-Tass news agency, but refused to make any further comment.
The station said the source for its information was Russia's Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency dealing with domestic security. It was impossible to independently verify the claim made in the programme. Russian and Ukrainian special services refused to comment on the report.
The Ukrainian Security Service had said it detained three Russian citizens on terrorist charges in Odessa on February 4, but it did not say then whether the suspects were linked to an anti-Putin plot.
Channel One said two of the alleged members of the group arrived in Ukraine from the United Arab Emirates via Turkey with instructions from Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov. One of them, a Chechen, was killed during the accidental explosion in Odessa and another one, Kazakhstan citizen Ilya Pyanzin, was injured in the blast and arrested.
Pyanzin led the investigators to their liaison in Odessa, Adam Osmayev, a Chechen who had previously lived in London, the report said.
Speaking to Channel One from custody in Ukraine, Osmayev, whose face was covered in cuts and bruises, said the group's mission was to kill Putin using a powerful explosive device. "Our goal was to go to Moscow and try to kill Prime Minister Putin. Our deadline was after the Russian presidential election."
Pyanzin was also shown saying that they were to sabotage economic facilities and then try to kill Mr Putin.
Opinion polls show that Mr Putin is all but certain to win a first-round victory in the presidential vote despite a series of massive protests in Moscow against his rule that have dented his popularity.