Vladimir Putin could unleash a wave of high-profile assassinations carried out by Russian secret service, according to Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The founder of the Open Russia Movement and well-known critic of Mr Putin told BBC Newsnight that the Russian leader’s latest threats should be taken seriously. This comes as the Russian President used his annual state of the nation address to warn the West not to cross a “red line” with Russia.
He said that such a move would trigger an “asymmetrical, rapid and harsh” response from the Kremlin.
Mr Putin said Western powers were constantly trying to “pick on” Russia and meddle run its affairs.
Addressing these remarks, Mr Khodorkovsky said: “I have watched with interest this particular remark in his address because it looked like some veiled threat.
“Judging by what we already know about the operation of different secret services, what we know about the operations of people closest to Putin on the soil of Western countries, we could interpret this as a threat of future assassinations and future attempts to destabilise the situation in the West.”
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During his length address to the Russian people, Mr Putin accused the West of threatening to de-stabilise Russia and its allied neighbours Belarus and Ukraine.
He said: “The use of unjust sanctions is growing into something more dangerous: a coup attempt in Belarus.”
This comes as Belarusian authorities announced last week that they had uncovered a US-backed plot to assassinate Belarussian President Lukashenko.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said it had detained two Belarusians allegedly involved in the plot.
In another move, Russia also appears to have pulled back from its build-up of military forces on the border with Ukraine.
There had been concern that Moscow would invade eastern Ukraine after a tenth of Russia’s entire armed forces amassed in the region.
Russia had carried out huge military drills in Crimea this week involving 10,000 soldiers, 40 warships and 200 planes.
In other news, hundreds of people staged protests supporting Russia’s main opposition figure Alexei Navalny on Wednesday in eastern cities including Vladivostok, Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk.