Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the Federal Security Service (FSB) had on Monday prevented a murder attempt by a “terrorist group” on Russian TV journalist Vladimir Solovyev.
“They have moved to terror – to preparing the murder of our journalists,” Putin said on Monday of the West, without providing evidence.
The FSB said it arrested members of a “neo-Nazi terrorist” group which was plotting to assassinate the pro-Kremlin TV anchor on orders from Ukraine.
“The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation detained a group of members of the neo-Nazi terrorist organisation National Socialism/White Power, which is banned in Russia,” the agency said in a statement carried by news agencies.
The FSB claimed the group of six Russians was planning the “murder” of Russian TV and radio journalist Solovyev “on the instructions of the Security Service of Ukraine”.
It added that the group “confessed to preparing the murder of Solovyev, after which they planned to flee abroad”.
In a statement published Monday on the Telegram messaging app, Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) said it “has no plans to assassinate V. Solovyev”.
Solovyev has hosted prime-time political chat shows on Russian television since the late 1990s and has been decorated by the Russian government.
He has been sanctioned by the European Union as a “propagandist” and has had villas seized by Italian financial police.
“What’s surprising about this? I am on view to everyone,” Solovyev said in comments on the alleged plot to the RIA Novosti news agency.
“I am a Jew and an anti-Fascist so it’s obvious that I’m a target for [Ukrainian nationalist Stepan] Bandera-supporting, Nazi bastards,” he added.
Speaking to Russia’s top prosecutors and watched by his defence minister, Putin also accused the West of trying to destroy Russia and inciting Ukraine to plan attacks on Russian journalists, demanding prosecutors take a tough line with what he cast as plots hatched by foreign spies to divide the country and discredit its armed forces.
“They have resorted to terror! To preparing the murders of our journalists. We know by name the curators of Western secret services, primarily, of course, from the CIA, who work with the security agencies of Ukraine,” Putin said in televised remarks.
“Apparently they give such advice [to kill journalists]. So much for their attitude towards the rights of journalists… [and] human rights in general,” Putin added.
Putin, a former KGB spy who has ruled Russia as paramount leader since the last day of 1999, did not immediately provide evidence to support his statements.
A video recorded by the FSB aired on television showed security forces pushing half-naked young men onto the floor of flats and handcuffing them during searches.
According to the FSB, the officers found “fake” Ukrainian passports, pistols, drugs and Molotov cocktails, as well as a portrait of Hitler and a T-shirt with a swastika.
The footage also shows a handwritten note that suggests a Moscow TV studio complex was targeted.
The video shows one of the men saying the group planned “murders of people who spout propaganda”, naming a state television news anchor, Dmitry Kiselyov, and the editor-in-chief of Kremlin-funded broadcaster RT, Margarita Simonyan and her husband.