Russia's Putin says not afraid after murder plot

Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:56am EST
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By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Vladimir Putin brushed off a reported plot to kill him as part of his daily burden as Russia's prime minister on Tuesday, burnishing his macho image five days before a presidential election he is likely to win.

State television on Monday carried news of a plot by Islamist rebels to kill Putin, provoking ridicule from his opponents who said it was a crude attempt to boost the former KGB spy's popularity before Sunday's election.

Putin, who travels with heavy security, showed his customary swagger as he dismissed concerns about his safety, saying he had lived with such threats since first becoming prime minister in 1999, when he crushed an uprising on Russia's southern flank.

"If you are afraid all the time then you cannot live - let them fear us," Putin told reporters in Astrakhan, a city on the banks of the Volga River about 1,300 km (800 miles) south of Moscow, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

"People in my position have to live with such things," he was quoted as saying. "I have lived with this since 1999 and it has been going on constantly."

State television said the plotters, seized after one of them blew himself up in a flat in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa, had planned to plant a bomb in central Moscow to kill the 59-year-old prime minister on his way to work.

It aired video files from a seized computer that showed Putin's heavily armed cortege of cars speeding through Moscow, complete with police outriders and dozens of cars full of heavily armed bodyguards.

Russian media linked the plotters to a group known as the Caucasus Emirate, led by Chechen warlord Doku Umarov, which has carried out attacks including a suicide bombing at Russia's busiest airport last year which killed 37 people.   Continued...

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with local residents as he observes apartments granted for residents of a damaged nine-storey building, a section of which collapsed after a household gas explosion, in the southern city of Astrakhan February 28, 2012.  REUTERS/Yana Lapikova/RIA Novosti/Pool