The timing of the revelation of a plot to assassinate Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appears to have been specially chosen to help his presidential election campaign, opposition commentators said yesterday.
Russia’s state-controlled Channel One on Monday reported the arrest in Odessa, Ukraine, of two alleged militants with links to Chechnya who were planning to assassinate Putin in Moscow.
The sensational report was later confirmed both by Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) and the official spokesman of Putin, who also described as “blasphemous” any suggestion it was a pre-election stunt.
However, given an accidental explosion that first gave the suspects away took place last month and the second alleged plotter was arrested at the beginning of this month, skeptics have been quick ask why the announcement took so long.
“For now, we do not know for sure if this plot was for real or not, but we know one thing — that Channel One told us about this six days before the elections. Such a well-timed plot,” Kommersant FM radio political commentator Oleg Kashin said.
“Is it possible that such a sensation can appear on a Kremlin-controlled channel a week before the elections without the approval of Putin’s PR [public relations] people?” he asked.
Russia votes on Sunday in presidential elections expected to see Putin return to the Kremlin after his four-year stint as prime minister.
Odessa has a reputation throughout the former Soviet Union as a hub for tricksters, satirists and joke-telling. The Moscow daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets asked: “Was it a genuine plot or an Odessan anecdote?”
The political editor of radio Moscow Echo, Anton Orekhov, said there was no doubt that Islamist militants from the Caucasus were “capable of carrying out whatever act of terror and for them the bloodier the better.”
“But how well timed this has all been,” he said, adding it allowed the authorities to play on an idea of “the fatherland is danger from all sides and our leader is under threat of physical annihilation.”
Putin’s leading rival in the election, Communist Party leader of the Russian Federation Gennady Zyuganov, said the plot “smelt bad.”