MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian newspaper said on Saturday security forces foiled an attempt by a sniper to kill President Vladimir Putin near the Kremlin this month. Itar-Tass news agency cited a security source denying the report.
The Kremlin declined to comment on the report by popular Moscow tabloid Tvoi Den, which is known for its strong sources in law enforcement circles.
Tvoi Den quoted an unnamed source as saying a sniper was arrested shortly before Putin walked through the gates of the Kremlin on election night, March 2, to appear at a concert held next to the Red Square.
The concert was held to celebrate Putin’s protegee Dmitry Medvedev’s victory in a presidential election and although the two men walked through the gates together, the newspaper said Putin was the only target of the plot.
Itar-Tass quoted a source at Russia’s security services as denying that people detained early this month for possession of automatic weapons had intended to kill Putin.
“The information that these people planned any actions against the country’s leadership is absolutely wrong,” the source said.
Medvedev is due to be inaugurated on May 7 and has pledged to follow the policies of his political mentor Putin, who will serve as a prime minister under Medvedev.
Many analysts are questioning how durable the tandem can be given ongoing battles between political clans, some of which are keen to keep positions they built under Putin but might lose under Medvedev, if he becomes the final decision maker.
The FSB Russian security service also declined to comment on the report in Tvoi Den, which printed a photo of a young man from the ex-Soviet republic of Tajikistan, the alleged sniper, who was arrested in a flat in a residential building next to Red Square.
The head of FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, said this week his office had prevented a number of acts of terrorism and sabotage, which had been due to coincide with the elections.
In October, security services warned Putin that suicide bombers and kidnappers were preparing to kill or capture him during a visit to Tehran. Putin did not cancel the Iranian trip, despite the warning.
Tvoi Den has circulation of 2.1 million and reports mainly life style and criminal news.