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Ukraine war: Kyiv says it foiled Russian plans to assassinate Zelensky, denying Putin a ‘gift’ for his inauguration

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Ukrainian counter-intelligence investigators have foiled a Russian plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top military and political figures, Ukraine’s state security service said on Tuesday.

Two colonels in the State Guard of Ukraine, which protects top officials, were detained on suspicion of enacting the plan drawn up by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), a statement said. The colonels were recruited before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, according to the statement.

It quoted the head of the State Security Service (SBU), Vasyl Maliuk, as saying the plot foresaw an attack ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a fifth term on Tuesday.

“The terrorist attack, which was supposed to be a gift to Putin for the inauguration, was indeed a failure of the Russian special services,” Maliuk was quoted as saying by his agency on Telegram.

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There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

“The network, whose activities were supervised by the FSB from Moscow, included two colonels of the State Security Department who were leaking classified information to Russia,” the SBU said.

Ukrainian claims of Russian efforts to kill Zelensky are not new. Zelensky said in 2022 there has been at least 10 attempts to assassinate him as the war with Russia stretches into a third year.

Also, prosecutors in Poland said last month a Polish man had been arrested on allegations of being ready to spy on behalf of Russia’s military intelligence in an alleged plot to assassinate Zelensky.

The Ukrainian statement said the Russian intelligence agents targeting Zelensky sought out members of the Ukrainian military close to the president’s security detail who could take the head of state hostage and later kill him. The operation was run from Moscow, it said, providing the names of three alleged Russian spies behind the conspiracy.

The broader plan was to identify the location of senior Ukrainian officials and target them with a rocket attack, followed by drones and missiles.

The two Ukrainian colonels were arrested on suspicion of treason, which carries a life sentence, the statement said.

The SBU also said last August that a woman had been arrested for over a plot to kill the Ukrainian leader by trying to uncover details of his movements outside Kyiv.

Reporting by Associated Press, Agence France-Press, Reuters

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