Security services of Russia and neighboring Ukraine foiled a plan to assassinate Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin organized by an underground movement in the North Caucasus region, state television reported Monday.
The report came as Putin, who is seeking to reclaim the presidency, faces voters in Sunday's election. Protests by tens of thousands of demonstrators, most recently last weekend in Moscow, accuse officials loyal to Putin of cheating in parliamentary elections in early December. But he still is expected to defeat his four opponents on the first ballot.
Some observers questioned reports of an assassination plot, suggesting that it was either fabricated or that the news of a real plot was released at a time when it would benefit Putin's campaign.
Russia's main state television channel reported that Ukrainian authorities arrested a Russian after a Jan. 4 explosion in an apartment in the Black Sea port of Odessa. A second person died in the explosion, it said.
The survivor provided information leading to the arrest early this month of a third person, who was identified as Adam Osmayev, it said.
In video provided by Ukrainian authorities, a man with a bruised face who was identified as Osmayev said the group was planning to kill Putin sometime after the election using anti-tank mines.
"The final goal was to come to Moscow and try and carry out an attempt on Premier Putin's life," he said. "The security service is not omnipowerful; it can't control all the cars, all the pedestrians in the street."
The report said Osmayev's laptop, which was seized in the raid, contained several video recordings of Putin's motorcade route in and near Moscow taken from different vantage points. It said information provided by Ukraine helped the Russians find a cache of plastic explosives and detonators buried near one of Moscow's major thoroughfares.
A Putin spokesman confirmed to the ITAR-TASS news agency that an attempt on his boss' life was prevented, but he refused to elaborate.