Vladimir Putin survived an assassination attempt not long after starting his war in Ukraine, the country’s intelligence chief has claimed.
Kyrylo Budanov said Putin was ‘attacked.. by representatives of the Caucasus’ – a region that includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and parts of southern Russia – around two months ago.
‘[It was an] Absolutely unsuccessful attempt, but it really happened… It was about 2 months ago,’ Budanov said. ‘I repeat, this attempt was unsuccessful. There was no publicity about this event, but it took place.’
If true, it would be the only known attempt on Putin’s life since he launched all-out war against Ukraine on February 24.
Budanov did not directly link the assassination attempt to the Ukraine war, and Putin has a number of well-established enemies in the region from previous conflicts.
He gave the order for Russian to invade Georgia in 2008 – a war that ended in an uneasy stalemate – and has been fighting a low-level conflict against Islamist insurgents including ISIS in the region for many years.
The security situation has also been destabilised in recent years by fighting between Armenia – a close ally of Russia – and Azerbaijan, which included a war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in 2020.
Hostilities along their shared border had ticked up in the early months of this year, just before Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Putin is said to be fearful of assassination since declaring war, after hit squads were sent into Ukraine to take out President Zelensky in the early days of the conflict.
Zelensky and his entourage have described surviving several attempts to storm the presidential palace in the opening hours of the war, in what they believe were kill-or-capture missions by Russian ‘saboteurs’.
Last month, Putin took his ‘nuclear football’ – a briefcase that can launch an attack remotely – to the funeral of a far-right politician.
Mourners were cleared away when the President paid his respects to ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, showing his fears of an assassination attempt.
Putin has previously claimed he has escaped numerous assassination attempts.
In 2017, Putin told filmmaker Oliver Stone that there had been five assassination attempts against him – and the only reason he is alive is because he deals with his own security personally.
‘I do my job and the security officers do theirs and they are still performing quite successfully,’ Putin said in the documentary ‘The Putin Interviews’.
Putin is said to travel with his own sniper squad whose role is to locate any shooters and kill them before they are able to pull the trigger on Putin.
In 2012, a former public schoolboy in Britain was arrested in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa in connection with a foiled plot to assassinate Putin.
Adam Osmayev, who is from a prominent Chechen family opposed to Putin, was seized by special forces in Odessa and he allegedly confessed to wanting to travel to Moscow and kill Putin, then a presidential candidate, by bombing his motorcade.
Osmayev spent years in prison in Ukraine after being of the assassination plot. Moscow had attempted in vain for him to be extradited to Russia, but Kyiv had refused to.
In March, a former British Army chief said NATO and Western allies should not rule out the possibility of assassinating Putin.
Colonel Richard Kemp said Putin represents a ‘permanent and deadly threat’ and killing him may be ‘unpalatable’ to some, but it could help save thousands of lives.
Osama Bin Laden, Islamic State chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, and Iranian Republican Guard Commander Qasem Soleimani were all killed to counter threats, the colonel argued.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British troops in Afghanistan, told the Mirror: ‘NATO should consider all options to remove him from power. That would include killing him although it is not likely to be viable or desirable.’
Earlier this month, a former top US general said Putin will be desperate to stay in power because his successor may want to assassinate him.
In the cutthroat halls of Russian power politics, where he cannot rely on the rule of law and institutions of government to protect him, Putin may be in real danger from senior military and security figures over Russia’s catastrophic performance in the invasion of Ukraine.
General Jack Keane said Putin, who is reported to be in severely bad health, will do ‘anything’ to stay in power after finding the bite he has taken out of Ukraine might be more than he can chew.
Colonel Kemp’s suggestion comes amid rumours that Putin is in bad health, with one Telegram channel claiming links to the Kremlin saying he underwent cancer surgery just last week.
General SVR claimed the 69-year-old underwent an unknown procedure late last Monday following advice from medics that treatment was ‘essential’ and is now recovering from the operation.
The news emerged just hours before Putin appeared on state TV meeting with ally Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi, when he was caught on camera awkwardly twisting his feet while the pair sat down for talks.
It is the second time Putin has been filmed making the odd movement, which was caught on camera during a meeting with Tajikistan’s president a week ago, and comes off the back of rumours that he is suffering Parkinson’s.
Emomali Rahmon appeared to notice the movement during his meeting with Putin and glanced at the leader’s feet, though did not raise it in conversation.
Critics have suggested the twisting motion could be an attempt to cover up the kind of involuntary twitches caused by Parkinson’s – after Putin was seen shaking his arm and led before another meeting with Lukashenko on February 18.
Since then, he has been seen to grip the arms of chairs and corners of tables in what some believe to be an effort to disguise any shaking.
Whispers about Putin’s health began at least two years ago when he was said to be suffering both Parkinson’s and cancer, but have received renewed attention in the wake of his invasion of Ukraine.
The Kremlin has not commented on the latest allegations of Putin’s ill-health, but regularly denies he is suffering any kind of difficulties.
It comes as the war in Ukraine continues to go against Russia, which had planned a days-long ‘special operation’ to decapitate the government and return the country to Moscow’s so-called sphere of influence.
As the war has dragged on, Russia has increasingly resorted to nuclear threats to see off what it calls ‘interference’ by Western nations.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, repeated those threats today – saying Moscow will soon have dozens of new and powerful Sarmat-2 nuclear weapons at its disposal.
Fifty of the weapons will be deployed by autumn, he said, and ready to turn Russia’s opponents into ‘radioactive craters’.
‘It remains only to advise the aggressors to talk more politely with Russia,’ he said.
As a demonstration of Sarmat’s power, he showed off footage of a 26ft deep and 66ft wide hole caused by one of the missiles when fired without a warhead.
Meanwhile, Ukraine sentenced baby-faced Russian tank commander Vadim Shishimarin, 21, to life in jail after he pleaded guilty to war crimes for shooting dead a 62-year-old civilian in the conflict’s opening days.
Shishimarin admitted killing Oleksandr Shelipov with a single Kalashnikov bullet to the head on February 28 after being ordered to shoot him.
Judge Serhiy Agafonov said Shishimarin, carrying out a ‘criminal order’ by a soldier of higher rank, had fired shots at the victim’s head from an automatic weapon.
Shishimarin, wearing a blue and grey hooded sweatshirt, watched proceedings silently from a reinforced glass box in the courtroom and showed no emotion as the verdict was read out.
Oleksandr was shot in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka, Sumy region, while pushing his bicycle along the road.
The trial has huge symbolic significance for Ukraine, which has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.
Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes.
The Kremlin did not immediately comment on the verdict. It has previously said that it has no information about the trial and that the absence of a diplomatic mission in Ukraine limits its ability to provide assistance.
Source: Daily Mail