Iran General NewsThreat to kill Putin during trip to Iran

Threat to kill Putin during trip to Iran


The Guardian: Russia’s security services last night claimed they had uncovered a plot to assassinate President Vladimir Putin during his trip this week to Iran. The Guardian

· Security agencies say they uncovered bomb plot
· Tehran insists allegations are invention of ‘enemies’

Luke Harding in Moscow

Russia’s security services last night claimed they had uncovered a plot to assassinate President Vladimir Putin during his trip this week to Iran.

Suicide bombers were planning to blow up Mr Putin, Interfax news agency said, citing a source in Russia’s security agencies. Terrorists had been trained to kill the president, the source added.

The Kremlin last night confirmed that Mr Putin, who was on his way to Germany to meet chancellor Angela Merkel, had been informed of the alleged plot.

But there were few details. It was not clear why an Iranian terrorist group might target Mr Putin or how Russia’s security agencies learned of the plot on the eve of his visit. “We cannot comment on this information but we confirm that the president has been informed,” a Kremlin spokesman told the AFP news agency last night.

Mr Putin is due to travel to Tehran tonight after a Russian-German summit today in Wiesbaden.

During his Iran visit Mr Putin will meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and attend a summit tomorrow of Caspian Sea nations. He is the first Kremlin leader to travel to Iran since Josef Stalin attended a 1943 summit with Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt.

His trip follows an acrimonious meeting on Friday in Moscow with the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the US defence secretary, Robert Gates. Mr Putin again criticised the Bush administration’s plans to install a missile defence system in central Europe and said Russia was considering pulling out of a cold war treaty banning mid-range nuclear weapons.

The two sides also clashed over Iran, with Mr Putin saying he saw no reason for further sanctions against Tehran. On Saturday, Ms Rice, when meeting human rights activists, voiced concern about the Kremlin’s monopoly of power in Russia.

Since Mr Putin became president in 2000, Russian officials have reported two previous alleged plots to kill him on foreign trips. Ukrainian security officials said they foiled an attempt during a summit in Yalta in August 2000. In 2001 Russian security officials said the Azeri security services uncovered a plot to assassinate Mr Putin during a visit to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

Both alleged plots were linked to Chechnya, Russia’s restive Muslim region. In 1999 Mr Putin sent troops back into the southern republic to crush resistance to Moscow’s rule.

Last night’s apparent plot comes ahead of parliamentary elections in December for Russia’s Duma and a presidential poll next year. Under Russia’s constitution Mr Putin is obliged to step down in the spring of 2008. Two weeks ago, he revealed that he was considering becoming prime minister – and remaining in effect Russia’s leader.

The Kremlin has been keen to portray Mr Putin as the only leader capable of maintaining stability. Many Russians appear to agree, 61% saying they would like to see him become prime minister.

Mr Putin’s visit to Tehran tonight will be scrutinised for clues to Russia’s attitude towards Iran’s nuclear programme. Moscow has helped Iran avoid tougher sanctions and is building the country’s first nuclear reactor. But Russia has hedged its position by delaying completion of the plant and urging Iran to comply with international controls on its nuclear ambitions.

Iran’s foreign ministry last night dismissed claims of a plot to assassinate Mr Putin. “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,” a ministry spokesman said.

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