Putin assassination attempt ‘foiled’
March 16, 2008
Moscow (Daily Telegraph) -- Russian secret services have foiled an attack on President Vladimir Putin close to Red Square, it has been claimed.A man with a sniper rifle and Kalashnikov assault gun was found and detained in a rented apartment overlooking Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral, on March 2, the day of the Presidential election in Russia.
Mr. Putin and his president-elect, Dmitry Medvedev, appeared under the cathedral for a late-night pop concert once early results indicated that Mr. Medvedev would win a landslide.
The popular Tvoi Den newspaper, which broke the story, claimed that both men could have been killed from the flat which was in the line of sight of a stage where they appeared.
The gunman was named by the newspaper as Shakhvelad Osmanov, a 24-year-old Tajik national. His sniper rifle was said to be foreign-made and to have optical lenses, it said.
The newspaper claimed that an informant told FSB officials a few days before the election that Mr. Putin’s assassination was being planned.
The revelation came after Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russia’s FSB secret services, said last week that his officers had foiled “terrorist attacks” during the election campaign.
It was unclear why it had taken so long for the alleged assassination bid to be made public and why a tabloid newspaper was chosen as the outlet. The FSB have not confirmed or denied the report, but Interfax, the Russian news agency, quoted an unnamed secret service official who denied the report.
“Reports that there was some kind of plot against the leadership of the country are absolutely false,” the unnamed officer was quoted as saying.
The officer confirmed there had been arrests in March of “people with weapons” but said it had nothing to do with an assassination plot. “We are talking about an organized crime group.”
An apartment had been rented on the other side of the Moscow River from the Kremlin for the purpose, the newspaper reported. The man was due to move out the following day.
Security officers apparently raided the apartment at 8pm on March 2 and detained the man and found a “whole arsenal of firearms,” including a sniper rifle and a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Close to midnight, Mr. Putin, a former head of the FSB, and his ally Mr. Medvedev walked from the Kremlin onto Red Square to give short victory speeches in front of thousands of celebrating supporters.
“For an experienced marksman, both would have been easy targets,” stated Tvoi Den.
The FSB was said to be hunting for the organizers of the crime. For now, the man is arrested and charged with firearms offences. The paper said that Osmanov is not thought to be the mastermind behind the assassination bid.
The flat is near the five-star Kempinsky Hotel and not far from the official residence of the British Ambassador, the old British embassy, on Sofiyskaya Embankment.
The residence is now undergoing renovation.