Zelensky says Putin has tried to assassinate him ‘five or six times’
He says the ongoing plots are dangerous but routine- 'Like Covid'.
In an interview with the Sun, the Ukrainian president said there have been ‘five or six’ assassination plots foiled by his intelligence agents since the start of the Russian invasion last year. He described the first one as ‘very interesting’, but says over time they have become a matter of routine, ‘like Covid’.
‘The first one is very interesting, when it is the first time, and after that it is just like Covid,’ , he told the publication.
‘First of all, people don’t know what to do with it and it’s looking very scary.
‘And then after that, it is just intelligence sharing with you – detail that one more group came to Ukraine to (attempt) this.’
The initial attempt happened on the first day of Russia’s invasion on February 24 last year, when Russian special forces parachuted into Kyiv in an attempted decapitation strike on the Ukrainian capital.
But Zelensky says his bodyguards thwarted the plot by sealing off his office with makeshift barricades and issuing his aides with body armour and rifles.
British and US officials offered the president a way out of the capital shortly afterwards, fearing the regime would fall in a matter of hours.
However, Zelensky responded by telling them ‘I need ammo, not a ride’ and posted a defiant selfie in the streets of Kyiv, signalling an intention to stay and fight.
Almost two years later, the Ukrainian president says Putin still ‘wants very much’ to topple him from power and replace him with a pro-Russian puppet leader.
He says the operation is codenamed ‘Maidan 3’ – a reference to the Euromaidan revolution of 2014 which sparked the Russian annexation of Crimea and led to the outbreak of war.
‘[The operation] is meant to change the president. It’s bye bye,’ Zelensky said.
‘Maybe it’s not by killing. I mean it’s changing. They will use any instruments they have.
‘So that’s the idea, to the end of the year. They have even named the operation. But you see we can live with it.’
In August, Ukraine’s intelligence services (The SBU) said they foiled another attempt to kill Zelensky during an airstrike on the southern city of Mykolaiv.
SBU sources said they arrested a woman in connection with the incident who passed on secret details of the president’s trip to Mykolaiv over to Russia.
But when asked if Ukraine had responded by carrying out its own assassination attempts, Zelensky refused to comment.
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He said: ‘I can’t discuss with you any special operations of Ukrainian intelligence or Secret Service or of some special forces. There are some moments which we are not discussing. Not only inside Russia, there are things we are not discussing on our temporarily occupied territories.’
Elsewhere in the interview, Zelensky acknowledged the slow progress made by Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive, but said the incremental gains made on land had been offset by a number of major victories in the Black Sea.
His remarks come after the US Congress recently rejected plans for an additional $60billion in military aid, amid claims in the Republican party the conflict has become a ‘forever war’.
Zelensky snapped back by claiming the ongoing conflict is ‘not a movie’ and told US lawmakers ‘we rely on your support’.
Despite this, a senior US defence official told journalists: ‘We continue to believe that Congress will provide that support and we are planning based on that conviction.’
Zelensky added: ‘Ukraine today [is] in the centre of these global risks of this Third World War. And I really think that Russia will push until the United States and China together will tell them very, very seriously to go out of [our] territory.’
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