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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Assassination Leak Breeds Theories

The nature of an intelligence leak made public Sunday suggesting that assassins would target President Vladimir Putin in Iran remained a mystery Monday as he prepared to fly from Germany to Tehran.

Political and security analysts suggested that the leak might have been part of a foreign intelligence attempt to increase Russia's willingness to back sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.

"Of course I am going to Iran," Putin told a news conference in Wiesbaden, Germany, Reuters reported. "If I listened to all of the different threats and the recommendations from the special services, I would never leave home."

Until late afternoon Monday, the presidential press service had refused to confirm whether Putin's visit to Iran -- the first by a Kremlin leader since Stalin went to Tehran in 1943 -- would go ahead.

Putin was to fly there from Germany Tuesday morning, to attend the summit of the leaders of Caspian Sea countries, the Iranian government said.

He said Monday that he would talk with Iranian leaders about the country's atomic energy program, which the United States and its Western allies suspect of seeking the development of nuclear weapons.

Information about assassination plans by several groups of suicide terrorists in Iran first surfaced Sunday evening. An official from an unidentified Russian secret service agency said information about the plans had been received from multiple foreign sources, Interfax reported.

Security analysts dismissed the threat, saying the information was most likely leaked for political effect.

"Putin himself reacted nonchalantly when asked about it in Germany," said Andrei Soldatov, an analyst with the Agentura.ru investigative Internet portal. Putin was reported to wave his hand dismissively and reply "later" when asked by journalists in Germany about the leak Sunday.

This is not the first time officials have claimed they had uncovered an assassination attempt against Putin.

The first involved an attempt said to have been planned by Chechen rebels while Putin was visiting Yalta, Ukraine, in 2000. The second, also involving Chechen rebels, was during a visit to Azerbaijan in 2001.

Soldatov said no arrests or evidence regarding those reported plots had ever been made public.

Vladimir Sotnikov, an Iran specialist at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the threat, and the possibility that it would lead Putin to cancel the Tehran trip, could have been in the interest of governments trying to convince Russia to agree to harsher sanctions against Iran.

"I don't know of any political faction in Iran, including opposition groups, that would be interested in straining relations with Russia," Sotnikov said.

Alexander Khramchikhin of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis suggested that the leak could have also originated in Russia, with the purpose of sending a signal to Tehran that Moscow might pull its support if the Islamic republic continued developing its nuclear program.

The analysts were unanimous in dismissing the idea that the leak could have been related to domestic politics.

"When the authorities want to tighten the screws on society, they traditionally uncover a domestic assassination plot," Soldatov said.