Russian and Urkrainian security services foiled a plot to assassinate Vladimir Putin, the San Francisco Chronicle said Monday.
Russian pro-government Channel One television said Urkrainian special services in the Black Sea port of Odessa had held two men linked to a group seeking an Islamist state in Russia's North Caucasus, a Chicago Tribune article said.
"I can officially confirm that they were preparing an (assassination) attempt on Putin," Marina Ostapenko, a spokeswoman for the Russian SBU service said.
Ostapenko said two men were under arrest. One was captured in Odessa after being wounded in an explosion at an apartment which also killed another alleged plotter.
The second man, who was on the international wanted list, was arrested a month later.
The Tribune said several assassination attempts have been reported on Putin since he became president in 2000 but such reports have rarely made a big impact on Russia.
Channel One said the plotters had been planning to travel to Moscow to kill Putin but the Ukrainian special services had been tipped off by the security service, which Putin once headed.
"Our final goal was to go to Moscow and attempt to assassinate Putin," a man described as one of the plotters said on Channel One. "Our deadline was after the election of the president of Russia."
Putin, 59, is seeking a return to the Kremlin amid the largest challenge to his 12-year rule after fraud allegations at parliamentary polls in December sparked the largest mass demonstrations against the government since the 1990s. Protesters wore white ribbons Sunday and joined hands in a bid to encircle central Moscow, including the Kremlin.
Three polls published last week show Putin winning more than 50 percent, the level needed to avoid a runoff, the article said.
Some Russians reacted with skepticism, the Tribune said, making clear on social network sites that they did not believe the report or suggesting the timing of the announcement was to attract sympathy for Putin.
"Everything is being done to assure Putin's victory," Gennady Gudkov, a lawmaker for the opposition Just Russia party and a deputy head of the lower house of parliament's security committee said. "That's why information is being dumped so that everyone forgets about the mass protest rallies."