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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 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, or 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, Vasyl Maliuk, as saying the plot foresaw an attack before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a fifth term on Tuesday. Maliuk said that he personally oversaw the top-secret operation to track the plot.

Ukrainian claims of Russian efforts to kill Zelensky aren’t new. Zelensky said in 2022 there has been at least 10 attempts to assassinate him, and now the war with Russia has stretched into its third year.

Also, prosecutors in Poland said last month that 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.

Zelensky’s movements are kept secret for security reasons, and his visits around the country are publicly announced only after he has left. News of events he holds in Kyiv is usually embargoed until they are over.

Zelensky has proved to be a valuable asset for his country as the war against Ukraine’s bigger neighbour grinds on, and as Kyiv’s depleted forces wait for more troops and weapons. He has urged his people to keep fighting and instilled a belief that Ukraine can prevail.

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.

Amid a critical shell shortage as they await shipments from the U.S. military aid package, Ukrainian artillery units are playing a cat-and-mouse game with Russian attack drones. The enemy drones are hunting high-value artillery weapons like German-supplied howitzers, as Moscow pledges to focus its strikes on such weapons.


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