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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russians Freed in 'Kill Putin Plot' Case

British police have detained and then released "without further action" two Russian men in an alleged plot to kill President Vladimir Putin, a British newspaper reported Sunday.

According to The Sunday Times, the two Russian nationals were seeking to pass information on Putin's travel arrangements abroad to Chechen separatists.

The two men, identified by Scotland Yard only as being 40 and 36 years old, tried to make contact with Chechen rebels through Alexander Litvinenko, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer and a political refugee in London, the paper said. Instead, Litvinenko turned the men over to the police.

Litvinenko, along with exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, in 2002 alleged that the FSB was involved in a series of 1999 apartment building bombings in Russia.

Contacted Sunday, Litvinenko declined to comment except to confirm the details of the Sunday Times report.

According to the Sunday Times story, Litvinenko recognized a former FSB colleague in Central London earlier this month. He also believed that the man was an undercover FSB agent.

After a series of phone conversations and a meeting, Litvinenko contacted police, saying that one of them was an FSB hit man, also identified by The Sunday Times as "Major P."

"Major P. said [Putin] had to be overthrown because he was bankrupting the country and was going to put everyone in jail," the paper quoted an insider in the case as saying.

The two men were arrested on Oct. 12, but released Friday, a Scotland Yard spokeswoman said Sunday. She declined to comment on whether investigators contacted the Russian authorities or about Russian reaction to the case. In Moscow, officials from the FSB and the presidential press service declined to comment Sunday.

A source close to Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev said Sunday that the incident had little to do with a plot to assassinate Putin, but was instead a clumsy attempt to implicate Zakayev on the eve of the final hearing of his extradition case.

Russian prosecutors have been pressing for Zakayev's extradition from Britain since February. Closing speeches in the case are to be heard in a London court Tuesday.

According to the source, the fact that the two men were released means that Russia did not ask British police to hold them as terrorism suspects.

"The FSB has landed itself in a stupid situation. If there indeed had been a plot to kill Putin, then it now looks like [he] was saved by Litvinenko," the source said. "But if it is just a clumsy attempt to push Berezovsky and Zakayev into a criminal adventure, what kind of idiot would buy that?"