During a Monday meeting at Moscow’s Prosecutor General’s Office, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a shocking accusation, announcing the arrest of several accused assassins who were allegedly planning to kill prominent Russian state TV journalist and ardent Putin loyalist Vladimir Solovyov.
“This morning, organs of the FSB halted the activities of a terrorist group that was planning an attack and a murder of a prominent Russian TV journalist,” Putin stated, claiming that the plot was orchestrated by “high-ranking diplomatic officials in Europe and the United States” who are striving to divide Russian society and “destroy Russia from within.” Putin alleged that the West’s failure to prevail on the information front of the war in Ukraine has prompted it “to resort to terror, to arrange the killings of our journalists.” He added: “We know the names of the sponsors from Western intelligence agencies, first of all—of course—from the United States’ CIA, which are working with Ukraine’s security services.”
Russia’s notorious FSB counterintelligence agency released a video of the arrests, as well as so-called “behind-the-scenes” footage of agents searching and seizing property allegedly found at the suspects’ apartment, which was posted in its entirety by state media outlet RIA Novosti on Telegram. The footage showed an array of items laid out in the apartment, including a photograph of Adolf Hitler, six pristine-looking Ukrainian passports, a blonde wig, and brand new T-shirts emblazoned with swastikas that appeared to bear fresh creases from recent shipping.
But the seemingly brand new items weren’t the only curious elements depicted in the FSB video footage. In the original video, three copies of a Sims video game were shown laid out on the bed, as well as a book containing a menacing inscription, stating in part: “Kill to live and live to kill,” signed with the name of “Signature unclear.”
Social media users were quick to point that the SIMS game and “Signature unclear” could be signs that the arrest was part of an FSB hoax gone wrong, pointing out the directives for setting up the scene of the crime might have included planting three SIM cards and signing the book with an indiscernible signature—and that these instructions might have been misunderstood or taken too literally by the agents. Perhaps realizing their agents have flubbed, official videos posted by the FSB on its YouTube channel excluded the book and blurred the images of the SIMS video games.
Despite obvious holes in the official narrative of the so-called assassination plot, the Kremlin appears to be sticking with its story. On Monday, director of the Russian Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov told Russia’s Rossiya-1 channel that a group of six Russian neo-Nazis were indeed planning to kill state TV host Vladimir Solovyov on the orders of Ukraine’s Security Services.
In his interview with the state media outlet RIA Novosti, Solovyov said he didn’t notice being followed and profusely thanked the FSB for saving his life. But the groundwork for Monday’s accusations seems to have been laid out days prior: two days before the arrests, Solovyov claimed that during his morning jog, he was accosted by unknown harassers.
“I was jogging down the embankment today, as two fat bastards have driven past me on their bicycles, yelling ‘Glory to Ukraine,’” he said during his show Solovyov Live. “They were too scared to stop and get punched by me right into their greasy faces. We’ll trace and find them, no question, because it’s all on video… We need to catch all the scumbags over here.”
Solovyov, a vocal supporter of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, baselessly accused Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky of spearheading the alleged plot to assassinate him, and claimed to have been targeted because he is a Jewish journalist. Rossiya-1 reported that the “Neo-Nazi assassins” admitted to planning the murder of other state media personalities, showing a clip of one unnamed plotter whose face was blurred who said they had also planned to take out state TV host Dmitry Kiselyov, head of RT Margarita Simonyan, her husband Tigran Keosayan, as well as pro-Putin pundits Olga Skabeeva and Evgeny Popov.
During a Monday evening broadcast of state TV show 60 Minutes, Olga Skabeeva concluded: “Ukraine officially became the sponsor of terrorism.” Earlier in April, during his phone call with U.S. President Joe Biden, Zelensky had asked for the United States to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Today’s allegations seek to bounce that accusation back into Ukraine’s lap.
Opening his evening show on Monday, Solovyov seemed positively giddy while discussing the alleged plot to kill him. He chuckled about having to answer calls and give interviews about the arrests, and laughed about how the president of Ukraine must have orchestrated the scheme out of professional jealousy. As it turns out, Solovyov didn’t seem to be taking the alleged attempts on his life half as seriously as he did the seizure of his Italian villas due to Western sanctions.