Putin warned of assassination plot

Monday, October 15, 2007

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been warned of a possible assassination attempt .

Russian President Vladimir Putin has received information from his special services regarding a possible plot to assassinate him during his visit to Iran later this week, say Kremlin officials.

A "credible" source within the Russian national security services told the Russian Interfax news agency that multiple security agencies have received reports from various international sources warning of assassination attempts by several terrorist groups. According to the official, Russian intelligence has reason to believe that the terrorist groups have already been assembled and include individuals training to kidnap the Russian President, and to sacrifice their lives during a suicide bombing.

Kremlin deputy spokeman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters that there were currently no plans to cancel Putin's historic trip, the first visit to Iran by a Kremlin leader since Josef Stalin during a wartime summit in 1943. The Russian president is planning to visit Tehran to attend a summit of the five states which border the Caspian Sea. He will arrive in Iran on Wednesday.

Putin is also expected to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss a peaceful solution to the questions regarding Iran's nuclear program, specifically its desire to acquire an atomic bomb. Although Russia has supported two rounds of restrictive UN sanctions against Iran, the Russian government says publicly that it believes that direct engagement is the most effective way to handle the situation. Russian officials have told Reuters privately that they do not support Ahmadinejad's radical ideas, and that visiting Tehran could very well widen the gap of differences with the West over how to handle Iran.

Russia has sold weapons to Iran in the past, despite American protestation. The Russian government is currently helping to build a nuclear power facility at Busehr, Iran, on the Persian Gulf.

Analysts say that delays in finishing the Bushehr power station are an indication that, regardless of what it says publicly, the Kremlin is uncomfortable with the Ahmadinejad administration. Moscow says the delays have been caused by technical problems.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who plans to meet with Vladimir Putin later this week.

Are the Reports Reliable?

Mohammed Ali Hosseini, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, denied the reliability of the reports.

"Reports published by some media are totally baseless and are in line with the psychological war launched by enemies who want to harm Iran and Russia's relationship...Such erroneous reports will have no effect on the program already decided upon for Mr. Putin's visit to Tehran," he said. He seemed to indicate that the report was a creation of Iran's western enemies.

Conversely, a member of the Russian parliament's security committee has said that the report is likely reliable.

"For me this report has not come as a big revelation, because, unfortunately, today there are enough radical organisations, forces and movements of an extremist nature, oriented against Russia, which would like to settle a score with the Russian president," Gennadiy Gudkov told the state-owned Russian news channel, Vesti TV.

"There are certainly organisations of this kind in Tehran, which in recent times has unfortunately been a stronghold of radical Islamic organisations," he said.

The Moscow correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, Fred Weir, told Al Jazeera that assassination plots against the Putin had previously been uncovered in the Ukraine and Azerbaijan, both believed to be connected to the separatist movement in Chechnya.

"It could be some international scheme, perhaps connected with Russia's enemies like the Chechens," he said.

"Or it could be some elaborate rumor, in Russia we have this transitional phase, we are not sure if Putin is leaving his job or changing his job next year. All of this sort of thing excites power struggles and rumors are a major weapon in that."