Russia claims anit-Putin plot thwarted

MOSCOW (CBS/AP) - Russian and Ukrainian special services have arrested a group of suspects accused of attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia's state television said Monday.

The Channel One said that the suspects were plotting to kill Putin in Moscow immediately after the March 4 presidential election, in which he is all but certain to reclaim the presidency.

The station said the suspects had been arrested in Ukraine's Black Sea port city of Odessa, but didn't give any further details.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the report to the ITAR-Tass news agency, but refused to make any further comment.

Russian and Ukrainian special services wouldn't comment on the report.

Earlier this month, the Ukrainian Security Service said it detained three Russian citizens on terrorist charges in Odessa on Feb. 4. It wasn't immediately clear whether those suspects were linked to the anti-Putin plot.

The Ukrainian Security Service said the suspects were arrested following an accidental explosion that happened while they were trying to manufacture explosives at a rented apartment.

In the Odessa explosion, one suspect was wounded, one killed and one escaped, says CBS News Moscow bureau chief Tsvetlana Berdnikova. On February 4 - one month later - three more individuals reportedly belonging to the same group were arrested in Ukraine. They were Russian citizens, but their nationalities were not given.

According to the report on state-TV, which is linked to the Kremlin, the alleged assassination plot was uncovered based on intelligence gleaned from interviews with the suspects arrested in January and February.

The investigation into the group was still in progress, but the Russian security services would not comment over the phone when contacted by CBS News seeking further detail.

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