Russian media are abuzz with reports that secret services have foiled a plan to murder Vladimir Putin. The timing, however, is raising eyebrows, RFE/RL reports.

News of the plot, reported on February 27 by Russia's Channel 1 state television, comes just six days before a presidential election that's expected to sweep Putin back into the Kremlin after a four-year stint as prime minister.

Many Russians have reacted with suspicion, suggesting on social media that the thwarted plot was fabricated and timed to attract sympathy for Putin before the election.

"A good PR move for the country's main thief. Now all the grandmothers will react, they love victims," writes one poster on the Russian blogging platform LiveJournal.

"Strange that the attack wasn't plotted in London, jointly by [North Caucasus insurgent commander Doku] Umarov, the resuscitated [Al-Qaeda head Osama] bin Laden, and Martians," quips another. "The ratings must be really low."

Analysts say the revelations of the alleged plot could be aimed at deflecting attention from the growing street protests against Putin in recent weeks.

"Although nothing can be ruled out nowadays, it's perfectly clear that this thwarted plot comes at a crucial time in Putin's election campaign," says defense analyst Aleksandr Golts.

"Before this news was announced, many analysts said his campaign must receive new impetus in order to show how important Putin is for the country and how much Russia's enemies hate him."
Ukraine's parliamentary majority lauds the domestic security services, which have prevented an attack on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin plotted in Odesa, while the opposition claims that the plot is a political act.

"I am glad that our security services have displayed their high professionalism," Party of Regions deputy Valeriy Konovaliuk told Interfax on Monday. He recalled that attacks on Putin had been planned before.

This is not the first reported attempt on Putin's life during an election period -- a similar assassination attempt was allegedly foiled on the day of Russia's last presidential poll in March 2008.

In fact, the Odesa plot is the latest in a string of alleged attempts to assassinate Putin since he became president 12 years ago.

In turn, opposition deputy (the BYT-Batkivschyna faction), former first deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service (1996-1999) Oleksandr Skybynetsky said that it was an election act.

"I think this is a political act orchestrated by Russia and timed to coincide with Putin's election for president. A decision to publish such materials of security services is always political. The very fact of divulging this information - about the detentions and planned terror acts - is a political action," he told Interfax on Monday.

In his words, Ukraine played into Putin's hands.

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