With less than a week until presidential elections in Russia, the validity of a reported plot to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is being called into question.
Members of the opposition -- as well as countless Russian bloggers -- are claiming that the thwarted plot was a ruse to win support and sympathy and to secure a third presidential term for the polarizing statesman.
This is part of a clear election campaign, Yevgeniya Chirikova, a leader of the popular anti-Putin protest, told The Guardian. It's to bring attention to Vladimir Putin, and to develop this idea that there's a threat everywhere. It's a spectacle.
“Everything is being done to assure Putin’s victory,” politician Gennady Gudkov, of the opposition Just Russia party, told the British publication. “That’s why information is being dumped so that everyone forgets about mass protest rallies, allowing at the same time to pick up a few points on people’s sympathy.”
Putin is blasting the allegations as blasphemous, while his spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, insisted that the assassination plot was genuine.
There have been a total of seven attempts on Putin's life since the ex-KGB spy entered into Russian politics. The first occurred a month before Putin was elected president for the first time in 2000 and was credited to a certain organization. All the subsequent assassination attempts, which took place between 2000 and 2003, have been blamed on Chechen rebels and Islamic terrorists.
Gudkov himself once defended Putin against the types of conspiratorial allegations that he made on Monday. According to a 2007 report, Gudkov, who also worked for the KGB, said that all of the threats against the Russian president are absolutely real.
Many extremist and terrorist organizations have long threatened to kill the president, the politician, who was then a member of the Committee for Security of the State Duma, said in an interview.
On Monday, Russia's state-run Channel One reported that a plot involving three Chechen operatives working for Islamist rebel leader Doku Umarov was foiled by the Federal Security Service.
Suspect Ilya Pyanzin was detained following a raid on his home in Odessa, Ukraine, while another suspect was found in London. The FSB claimed that a third man was killed in the Jan. 4 explosion in Odessa, which was originally blamed on a gas leak but has now been linked to the terrorists' activities.
They told us, 'First go to Odessa and learn to make bombs.' After that, later, in Moscow, you will carry out sabotage on economic sites. Later, the assassination of Putin, Pyanzin confessed to police.
The final goal was to go to Moscow and carry out an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Putin. The man who died was ready to become a suicide bomber, the alleged mastermind, Adam Osmayev, told Russia's Channel One.
Our deadline was after the elections of the Russian president, he added.
If the assassination was intended to shore up support for the Putin's re-elections, it probably wasn't necessary. Polls put Putin as the clear favorite to win Sunday -- he is expected to win about 60 percent of the vote, enough to assure an easy first-round victory.