Russian and Ukrainian intelligence services say they have foiled a plot to kill Vladimir Putin, just days before a March 4 election that's expected to return Putin to the presidency after four years as prime minister. Although heavily favored, Putin is facing the biggest threat to his authority since he came to power in his first presidential term 12 years ago, as thousands of Russians demonstrate in the streets to protest corruption under Putin and his United Russia party. Is somebody really trying to kill Putin — or is this just a trick to make voters sympathetic and seal Putin's victory?
This is clearly just a campaign trick: This blockbuster is too "timely" to be believed, political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin tells Britain's The Telegraph. Putin's political operatives want to make voters think there are "enemies are all around us" and that Russians therefore need Putin, our one "decisive, effective, clever national leader." It's "an old trick," and sadly, it works. Putin can expect "a considerable boost to his ratings."
"Vladimir Putin 'assassination attempt' seen as ploy to boost image"
But terrorists do want to kill Putin: "Considering Putin's latest poll numbers," says Simon Shuster at TIME, "he hardly needs to invent assassins in order to win the election next week." (Putin is poised to win 60 percent of the vote.) Besides, the alleged assassination mastermind says he worked for Chechen terrorist leader Doku Umarov, who himself has claimed responsibility for planning suicide attacks dating back a decade. "Some reminder of the terrorist threat seemed predictable ahead of the elections," but that hardly means this plot was fake.
"Putin assassination plot: Credible threat or pre-election ploy?"
Either way, the timing was chosen for effect: "True or not," says Neil Buckley at Financial Times, we've heard this story before. Russian security said Chechens were trying to assassinate Putin ahead of his election in 2000, and similar plots emerged in 2003, ahead of the next election, and again in 2007." Notice a pattern? This particular plan was uncovered weeks ago when the alleged plotters were arrested. But withholding big news like this until the election gives it "maximum impact."
"A pattern in the Putin plots?