Russia’s state-run Channel One reported Sunday that a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is the presidential front-runner, by a Chechen terrorist group has been thwarted in Odessa, Ukraine. Many skeptics are saying it is merely an attempt by Putin to slow the growing political storm and ensure his election next week. Russian authorities have apparently known of the plot for two months, but only took action six days before the crucial elections. The assassination attempt proves Putin fears what could come from recent protests. He is resorting to extreme measures to monger fear and encourage Russians to vote for stability over more rational decisions.
In a world where terrorism appears to be rampant, fear of enemies with ill-intentions has been used effectively by many politicians to gain support. The exploitation of this assassination plot, is a carefully administered plot in itself to garner support for a politician that many see as a dangerous choice for president. But protestors see the scheme for what it is.
In a recent article by the Guardian, protest leader Yevgeniya Chirikova said “This is part of a clear election campaign. It’s to bring attention to Vladimir Putin, and to develop this idea that there’s a threat everywhere. It’s a spectacle.”
Russia’s middle class, previously dismissed in the political sphere, is mobilizing itself through widespread protest and they have sent Putin reeling.
When he said last week at a rally "not to look abroad, not to run to the other side and not to betray your motherland," he chose a suspicious path of rhetoric.
In casting Russia as a country where danger is perpetually lurking around the corner, only to have Kremlin-run Channel One “uncover” the assassination plot slotted for election day, he and Russia’s top officials have revealed their true intentions. Putin is banking on the political atmosphere to quickly shift in his favor before the elections. In doing so, it would add legitimacy to what many perceive as his already clear path re-election.
Russian officials have called these accusations “blasphemous,” but it this is not the first time plots and attacks have been uncovered strangely close to election time. An assassination attempt right around 2008’s presidential elections was “foiled” in similar fashion.
Blatant stunts to instill fear of the unknown may be unethical, but they have been proven to be effective before and it could work again. But the current political atmosphere in Moscow is uneasy and the masses are not satisfied with the direction their country is headed. Putin’s strategy to gain sympathy as a political hero and retrieve the presidency with the people’s support could backfire.
The world is watching Russia and many have been vocal in their criticism of Putin. With large protests already happening throughout the country, taking such drastic measures shows a telling insecurity in the state of his power and influence.
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