Close Call: Zelensky and Top Ukrainian Leaders Dodge Russian Assassination Plot

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Ukrainian Security Service agents foiled a Russian plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky and other high-ranking political and military officials on Tuesday.

SBU (the security agency) said it had arrested both colonels in the Department of State Security, which is responsible for the President’s protection. SBU chairman Lieutenant General Vasyl Mlyuk, and high-profile military intelligence chief Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budaynov were also targeted. The Wall Street Journal reported that this operation was linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration, and I believe Thursday’s Victory Day celebration.

Malyuk claimed that the plot was intended to be a gift for Russian President Vladimir Putin, ahead of his Tuesday induction for a new six-year term. A Kremlin spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for comment.

Malyuk stated, “The terrorist attack…was a failure by the Russian special services”.

According to the plan, members of Zelensky’s personal security detail would kidnap Zelensky and then assassinate him under cover of Russian drone and missile strikes.

It is not the first assassination attempt on Zelensky or other Ukrainian senior officials.

Budanov, in an interview with the Ukrainian Intelligence Agency last year (but not stating how many attempts were foiled on Zelensky’s life), said that they had foiled multiple attempts against Zelensky.

He said at various times, the military had prepared for certain operations. They were very serious and carefully planned.

His comments followed the arrest of a Ukrainian woman accused of spying for Russia on Zelensky when he visited a region affected by the Kakhovka Dam blast last summer.

The Polish authorities arrested Pawel K in the spring of this year, as part of what they described as a Russian plot against the Ukrainian president. Authorities said that the man had been providing information from Poland to Moscow about an airport used frequently by U.S. military personnel and politicians in Ukraine, including Zelensky.

During the first Russian attack on Ukraine, Russian commando squads attempted to kill Zelensky.

A Russian missile exploded in Odesa, whether by accident or on purpose. Zelensky had been hosting the Greek Prime Minister KyriakosMitsotakis.

The assassination of Budanov was planned to coincide with the operation against Zelensky.

According to the services, it was planned that General Budanov’s assassination would take place just before Orthodox Easter on May 5, which is celebrated. Ukrainian security services stated that the F.S.B. network in Ukraine had been tasked to observe and pass on information regarding General Budanov’s whereabouts. After his location was confirmed, the Ukrainian security services said that he would be targeted by a drone and rocket attack.

In November, a poisoning attack was made on Budanov’s wife.

The two colonels were recruited by the FSB long before Russia’s illegal invasion in February 2022. This highlights the issue of senior Ukrainian officers who trained at Soviet military academies and formed friendships in those institutions. The FSB has been recruiting Ukrainians in large numbers for many decades, focusing on people who work in the security and military services. The SBU has detained over 2,000 Ukrainians since the beginning of the war on suspicions that they were working for Russia.

The decapitation attack would have occurred at a crucial time in the war, and if it had been successful, it could have played a decisive role.