Ukraine-Russia War: President Volodymyr Zelensky escapes another assassination bid


Ukrainian media agency KyivPost on Monday claimed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky survived yet another assassination attempt.

This time, the agency claimed, a military group of 25 people led by the Russian special services was captured near the Slovakia-Hungary border. Their goal was the physical elimination of the Ukrainian president.

Zelensky has been claiming that he is Russia's "target number one" since Ukraine woke up to a pre-dawn Russian invasion on 24 February. He had also warned citizens about Russian saboteur elements who had entered Kyiv and were looking for him and his family.

The Ukrainian president has so far survived three assassination attempts since the Russian invasion began according to The Times. The plots were foiled after Ukrainian officials were alerted about them.

The report had claimed that two different outfits were roped in to eliminate Zelensky. The outfits comprised the mercenaries of the Kremlin-backed Wagner group, a mercenary outfit made up of Russian ex-soldiers and suspected of war crimes across the globe, and the Chechen special forces.

However, presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak had told the outlet Ukrainian Pravda that the president has survived more than a dozen assassination attempts in the first two weeks of the war — and still remains Russia’s “main target.”

“We have a very powerful network of intelligence and counterintelligence, they track it all,” he said.

But even then Zelensky has remained defiant, to an extent he revealed his address in a video.

The development comes on a day when the Ukrainian president said the country is prepared to declare its neutrality and consider a compromise on contested areas in the country’s east, ahead of another round of talks set for Tuesday on stopping the fighting. But he said only a face-to-face meeting with Russia's leader can end the war.

Zelensky also stressed that Ukraine's priority is ensuring its sovereignty and its “territorial integrity” — preventing Russia from carving up the country, something Ukraine and the West say could now be Moscow's goal.

But Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that the two presidents could meet, but only after the key elements of a potential deal are negotiated.

“The meeting is necessary once we have clarity regarding solutions on all key issues,” Lavrov said in an interview with Serbian media. He accused Ukraine of only wanting to “imitate talks,” and said Russia needs concrete results.

In an overnight video address to his nation, Zelensky said Ukraine is seeking peace “without delay.”

While saying “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are beyond doubt,” Zelensky also suggested compromise might be possible over the Donbas, the predominantly Russian-speaking eastern region of Ukraine where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting a separatist war for the past eight years. With its forces bogged down elsewhere, Russia said days ago that its focus is now on securing the Donbas.

Zelensky also said that a peace agreement would have to be put to a referendum of Ukrainian voters, but that Russian troops would have to withdraw from the country first.

“A referendum is impossible in the presence of troops. No one will consider the referendum results legitimate if there are foreign troops on the country’s territory," he said.

Zelensky said that a possible compromise could see Russia pull back its troops to areas where they had been before the invasion started on 24 February.

“I realise that it’s impossible to force Russia to fully leave the territory. It could lead to World War III. I understand completely. I’m fully aware of it," he said. "That is why I’m saying, yes, this is a compromise: Go back to where it all started and then we’ll try to resolve the issue of Donbas, the complex issue of Donbas.”

It was not clear how a compromise on the Donbas would square with maintaining Ukraine's territorial integrity, and Russia and Ukraine remain far apart on other issues.

With input from agencies

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Ukraine-Russia War: President Volodymyr Zelensky escapes another assassination bid
Ukraine-Russia War: President Volodymyr Zelensky escapes another assassination bid
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