Ukraine Says It Foiled Russian Plot to Kill Zelensky

Ukraine’s security services said on Tuesday that they had foiled a Russian plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top military and political figures. Two Ukrainian colonels accused of participating in the plot have been arrested on suspicion of treason.

The Ukrainian domestic intelligence agency, the S.B.U., said in a statement that the plot had involved a network of agents — including the two colonels — that was run by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the main successor agency to the K.G.B. According to the Ukrainian agency, the agents working at Russia’s direction were tasked with identifying people close to Mr. Zelensky’s security detail who could take him hostage and later kill him.

The agency’s statement said the other top Ukrainian officials targeted in the plot included Vasyl Malyuk, the head of the S.B.U., and Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency. The Ukrainian claims could not be independently verified.

It is not the first time that Ukraine has reported a potential assassination attempt aimed at its top leaders. Mr. Zelensky himself said in an interview with an Italian television channel earlier this year that his security services had told him of more than 10 such attempts.

Ukraine’s security services offered few details about previous assassination plots. But this time, the agency went to some length in its statement to describe how the Ukrainian officials were to be killed.

The services said the two colonels accused in the plot belonged to the State Security Administration, which protects top officials. They had been recruited before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, according to the statement, which identified three F.S.B. members — Maxim Mishustin, Dmytro Perlin and Oleksiy Kornev — as running the operation from Moscow.

The assassination of General Budanov, the services said, was planned to take place before Orthodox Easter, which was celebrated on May 5. The F.S.B.’s network of agents in Ukraine was tasked with observing and passing on information about General Budanov’s whereabouts, the Ukrainian security services said. Once his location had been confirmed and communicated, he would have been targeted in a rocket and drone attack.

Weapons for the attack were provided to one of the colonels, including attack drones, ammunition for a rocket launcher and anti-personnel mines, according to the security services and Ukraine’s prosecutor general. The colonel was to pass the weapons to other agents to carry out the attack, the Ukrainian statement said.

General Budanov’s wife was poisoned late last year, according to the Ukrainian military intelligence agency, in an incident that led to widespread speculation that Russia was stepping up efforts to target Ukraine’s senior leadership.

The S.B.U. also reported last month that it had arrested, in cooperation with Polish security services, a Polish man who it said had offered to spy for Russia as part of a plot to assassinate Mr. Zelensky.

Russia made no immediate comment about Tuesday’s allegations.

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