Russia says it foiled assassination attempts on top media figures

A Moscow court issued criminal charges against seven people in connection with alleged plot to kill two prominent journalists.

ournalist Ksenia Sobchak attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, May 31, 2018.
Russia's Federal Security Service said that a group of neo-Nazis were arrested in connection with a Ukrainian plot to kill Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the state-funded RT international television channel, and journalist Ksenia Sobchak, pictured above [File: Pavel Golovkin/AP Photo]

A Moscow court has issued criminal charges against seven people in connection with a plot “motivated by national hatred” to kill two prominent Russian journalists, Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency has reported.

The court on Saturday ordered the detention of five minors born in 2005 and 2006, and two men it said were part of an organised group.

According to TASS, Russia’s intelligence agency foiled assassination attempts on Margarita Simonyan, the chief editor of state media outlet RT, and Ksenia Sobchak, a well-known journalist and TV host.

The agency said the neo-Nazi group called “Paragraph-88” carried out reconnaissance near the homes and workplaces of the journalists.

The FSB published footage showing several suspects being detained, as well as allegedly seized weapons and books on Nazism.

Interfax news agency quoted the FSB as saying that the detainees had admitted preparing attacks on the two women on behalf of Ukraine and had been promised a reward of $16,620 (1.5 million roubles) for each one.

Simonyan, a vocal supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine and one of state television’s most recognisable faces, posted a message on Telegram about the alleged plot, urging the security services to “Keep on working, brothers!”

Sobchak, an influencer often critical of the Kremlin, ran against Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 2018 presidential election. She is the daughter of former Saint Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who was Putin’s mentor.

Her popular YouTube channel is often critical of the authorities, and she has left Russia several times since the war on Ukraine began.

“If this is all true, then thanks to all the services involved for their work,” Sobchak said on Telegram.

“If not, and if the point was simply to put me in the same sentence as Simonyan, then this is just plain mean,” she added.

Two prominent pro-war Russian figures, journalist Darya Dugina and military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, have been killed in bomb attacks inside Russia in the past year. Russia blamed their killings on Ukraine, while Kyiv denied that and portrayed them as evidence of Russian infighting.

In May, a prominent Russian nationalist writer, Zakhar Prilepin, was wounded in a car bombing that killed his driver. Investigators said a suspect had been detained and had admitted acting on behalf of Ukraine.

Source: News Agencies