When Russian state-run Channel One reported early on Monday that a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had been foiled, political analysts were unanimous about the public relations nature of the news, but they differed on who stood to gain from it.
The TV channel broadcast a news report on Monday featuring two alleged militants who were arrested in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa on suspicion of organizing an assassination attempt on Putin, planned for execution after the presidential elections on March 4, which the prime minister is expected to win.
Russian political analyst, Maxim Agarkov, said that news of the assassination attempt was “unlikely to be from Putin’s election campaign” since his team was smart enough not to spread this “obviously fake” news in media.
“It looks like it is the Security Services that are attempting to show how well they are performing their duties… ahead of the mass reshuffles that will definitely be carried out after the presidential elections,” Agarkov said, adding that the detained militants, who are said to be hired by Chechen warlord Doku Umarov, was a group of amateurs who may have merely contacted Umarov about possible support.
According to the TV report, the militants planned to use roadside bombs against Putin’s cortege during its daily passage along Moscow’s Kutuzovsky Prospekt on his way to his office.
Agarkov also said this criminal plot to blow up Putin’s cortege looked “childish" given that some 40 kilograms of explosives would have to be attached directly to the armored limousine in order to kill the occupants.
Andrei Soldatov, the editor-in-chief of the Moscow-based agentura.ru web site, which features news about Russian and the international security services, said that today’s assassination reports against Putin was nothing but a part of his presidential campaign.
“Putin could profit from this idea to show that he has everything under control and that he is the one we should be grateful to for our security and stability,” Soldatov said.
Soldatov however dismissed the idea that the security services could profit from the news.
“I don’t think the FSB (Federal Security Service) is behind this story since, as far as I can see, the information is coming mainly from the Ukrainian Security Services,” Soldatov said.
Earlier on Monday Ukraine confirmed the Russian television report.
Nikolai Kovalyov, a member of the ruling United Russia party, who served as the FSB chief from 1996 to 1998, went further, saying that the averted assassination plot was an attempt “to destabilize the situation in the country ahead of the polls.”
“Since the issue is about the averted terrorist attack, the preparation seems to be very serious,” Kovalyov said, adding that it was Umarov who does not want Russians to “vote for stability.”
In early February Kavkazcenter.com, a website that has been the most powerful mouthpiece of the North Caucasus separatists for over twelve years, broadcast footage featuring Umarov expressing support for mass anti-Putin protests across Russia and said that the further terrorist attacks would target law enforcers, FSB officials and “the dogs of the bloody Chekist regime.”
Putin, who served as president from 2000 to 2008, is expected to return to the Kremlin for a third term in elections on March 4.