Russian and Ukrainian security services have foiled a plot to assassinate Vladimir Putin after next week's presidential election, according to Ukraine's SBU counter-intelligence agency.
Russian pro-government Channel One television said Ukrainian special services in the Black Sea port of Odessa had arrested two men in connection with a plot.
According to the AFP news agency, the station showed two men on Monday who said they were acting on the orders of Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov.
The attack was to happen after next Sunday's presidential vote, the report said.
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The men said they prepared the attack in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa and were planning to carry it out in Moscow.
One man died in a blast in early January that prompted the investigation, the report said.
"They told us that first you come to Odessa and learn how to make bombs," the station showed a man identified as Ilya Pyanzin as saying.
"And then later, in Moscow, you will stage attacks against commercial objects, with the subsequent assassination attempt against Putin," the man said.
Al Jazeera's Christopher True, reporting from Moscow, said: "There is some scepticism among people here regarding the timing of the arrests, just six days before the presidential election.
"The incident brings to mind an annoucement just a few days after the last presidential election when the Russian secret services announced they had foiled an attack on Putin close to Red Square, arresting a man on March, 2, 2008, the day of the election.
"Russia's Channel One station said the alleged members of the group had arrived in Ukraine from the United Arab Emirates via Turkey with instructions from Doku Umarov, the Chechen rebel leader.
"Umarov has claimed responsibilty for a number of attacks in Russia in the past, including the Moscow airport bombing on January 24 last year, which left 36 people dead."
The state television footage, which was apparently shot in Ukraine, showed a video of Putin getting into his car being played on the laptop computer belonging to the second arrested man, identified as Adam Osmayev.
"This was done so that we had an understanding of how he was protected," Osmayev said.
"The end goal was to come to Moscow and to try to stage an assassination attempt against premier Putin," Osmayev said.
|State TV aired pictures of the men who were allegedly planning to kill Vladimir Putin after Sunday's election.
"The deadline was after the election of the Russian president," Osmayev said.
Putin was president from 1999 until 2007 and is standing in March's elections for the same position.
Several assassination attempts have been reported on Putin since he rose to power in 2000 but such reports have rarely made a big impact in Russia.
Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford, reporting from Moscow, said the timing of this assassination report is the "big bone of contention".
"There have reportedly been at least 10 assassination plots on Putin during the two terms of his office uncovered and foiled by various security services in Russia," he said.
"So this again a week before an election where Putin is widely expected to win, there are a lot of voices here, a lot of people who are calling into question the timing of this story."
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Putin, 59, also did not comment immediately although aides said he had chaired a government meeting on the
military-industrial complex at his residence of Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow on Monday.