Plot to assassinate Putin by Chechen terrorists is revealed on eve of polls


RUSSIAN AND Ukrainian security services have disclosed what they say is a plot by Chechen terrorists to kill Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin after next Sunday’s presidential election which he is confidently expected to win.

Russia’s Channel One TV station yesterday showed pictures of two suspects admitting their guilt to Ukrainian secret service agents in the city of Odessa.

Footage of the interrogation of the two suspects, in which they say they were acting on orders from Chechen leader Doku Umarov, were shown as part of the main TV news.

Umarov, who until 2007 described himself as president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, has now taken on the title of Emir of the North Caucasus, and is Russia’s most wanted terrorist suspect.

He claimed responsibility for the bombing that killed 37 people and injured hundreds in the international arrivals terminal at Domodedovo, Moscow’s busiest airport, in January last year.

While the news will probably increase Mr Putin’s chances of becoming president of Russia for the third time, there was nothing to suggest that the threat was not genuine. The plan, according to the two suspects, was to plant mines on Kutuzovskiy Prospekt, the street Mr Putin uses regularly to travel in to central Moscow from his state residence in the western suburbs.

The plot would also have endangered a great many ordinary citizens.

Kutuzovskiy Prospekt, where I happen to be staying, houses a number of shops, car showrooms, the former Ukraina Hotel (now the Radisson Royal), some restaurants and a large residential complex inhabited by foreign diplomats and correspondents.

It is also a busy traffic artery and any major explosion in the area could cause a high number of casualties.

The plot came to light early in the year when police investigated an explosion in an Odessa apartment building in which one man was killed and another badly injured. At first the police treated the incident as a domestic gas explosion, but on January 6th, traces of explosive substances were found in the belongings of Ilya Pyanzin, a survivor of the blast.

The questioning of Pyanzin led the Ukrainian security service SBU to contact their Russian counterparts, the FSB in Moscow. A third man, Adam Osmayev, whose name is on an international wanted list, escaped from the destroyed flat but is now under arrest in Odessa.

Osmayev’s interrogation was also shown on Russian TV. His face was daubed with zelyonka, a bright green antiseptic substance used in Russia to treat cuts. He appeared subdued, and was crouched on the floor, with his head in his heavily bandaged hands. A voice was heard on the TV footage saying “lift your head and say your name”. He replied: “Osmayev, Adam” and went on to say “the ultimate object of the operation was to travel to Moscow and to kill Prime Minister Putin.”

In March 2008, shortly before Dmitriy Medvedev stood for the presidency, Russian TV revealed that there had been a plot to kill both him and Mr Putin.

Seamus Martin’s documentary series, Death of an Empire, on the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of the new Russia, continues this evening and on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings on RTÉ Radio One at 8.30pm.