Reuters: President Vladimir Putin has been warned by his special services of a possible plot to assassinate him during a visit to Tehran this week, the Kremlin said on Sunday. By James Kilner
MOSCOW, Oct 14 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin has been warned by his special services of a possible plot to assassinate him during a visit to Tehran this week, the Kremlin said on Sunday.
Iran dismissed as baseless a report by the Russian Interfax news agency that suicide bombers were preparing to attack the President. It described the allegation as “pyschological warfare” calculated by Tehran’s enemies — an apparent reference to Western powers — to undermine Russian-Iranian relations.
Kremlin deputy spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters he was unaware of any plans to cancel Putin’s visit. The trip is the first by a Kremlin leader to Tehran since World War Two, and comes amid tension over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Asked to comment on Russian media reports of an assassination plot, Peskov said by telephone from Tehran: “The information is being dealt with by the secret services…The president has been informed.”
Interfax reported on Sunday that security services had been told suicide bombers and kidnappers were training to kill or capture Putin on his visit, which is to start on Tuesday.
The trip to Tehran will be watched closely by Western capitals pushing Moscow for a harder line over an Iranian nuclear programme they fear masks a drive for an atomic bomb.
“A reliable source in one of the Russian special services, has received information from several sources outside Russia, that during the president of Russia’s visit to Tehran an assassination attempt is being plotted,” Interfax said.
It gave no details of who the sources were or whether they were linked in any way to Western governments.
“A number of groups of suicide bombers are preparing for this aim,” Interfax, one of a small circle of Russian agencies with special access to the Kremlin, added.
Kremlin spokesman Peskov, in Tehran to prepare for Putin’s visit, said as far as he was aware the visit was still on.
The president arrived in Wiesbaden, Germany, on Sunday night for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel expected to include discussion of Iran. Asked about the assassination plot report, he waved a hand dismissively and said: “later” (“potom”).
The semi-official Iranian news agency quoted an “informed source” as saying the visit would go ahead.
“Western politicians and their media were trying to persuade Putin in a political action not to travel to Iran and now that they have failed in that, they intend to convince him not to travel to Iran by talk of security issues and rumour of an assassination.”
Putin, who will be the first Kremlin chief to visit Iran since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin went in 1943, will formally be in Tehran for a summit of Caspian Sea states.
But a meeting planned with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could give him a chance to seek a peaceful compromise over Tehran’s nuclear programme and to demonstrate his independence from Washington on Middle East issues.
Russia says engaging Tehran is a more effective way of tackling Iran’s nuclear programme than isolating it. It sells weapons to Iran, in defiance of U.S. concerns, and is building a nuclear power station for Iran at Bushehr, on the Persian Gulf.
However, Putin’s trip to Tehran is diplomatically tricky for the Kremlin.
Russian officials say privately that they are uncomfortable about Ahmadinejad’s radical rhetoric, and travelling to Tehran is likely to deepen differences with the West over how to deal with Iran.
Analysts say repeated delays in completing the Bushehr power station are a sign that, whatever it says in public, the Kremlin has deep misgivings about the Ahmadinejad administration. Russia says the delays are due to technical problems.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini dismissed the report by Interfax.
“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.”