Hundreds of Russian mercenaries are in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv with orders to assassinate Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to Ukrainian intelligence.
The Ukrainian government learned of a Russian plot to assassinate the president over the weekend and declared a 36-hour “hard” curfew as Ukrainian forces sweep the city to identify and neutralize the would-be assassins, according to The Times of London. Citizens still in Kyiv were warned to stay indoors or risk being “liquidated.”
“Warning! From today, February 26, 2022, the curfew will run from 5:00 pm to 8:00 am for more effective defense of the capital and security of its inhabitants. This curfew is introduced until the morning of February 28,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko tweeted on Saturday. “All civilians who will be on the street during the curfew will be considered members of the enemy’s sabotage and reconnaissance groups. Please treat the situation with understanding and do not go outside.”
Усі цивільні особи, що перебуватимуть на вулиці в період комендантської години, вважатимуться членами диверсійно-розвідувальних груп ворога.
Прошу із розумінням поставитися до ситуації та не виходити на вулиці.
— Віталій Кличко (@Vitaliy_Klychko) February 26, 2022
Putin hired 400 mercenaries through the Wagner Group to enter Kyiv roughly five weeks ago and assassinate Zelensky. The plot is part of Putin’s attempt to topple the Ukrainian government and take over the former Soviet state.
The assassins, according to Ukrainian intelligence, were supposed to eliminate Zelensky to pave the way for the ground invasion into Ukraine that Russia launched last week. Former U.S. intelligence officials speculated to Fox News that the saboteurs may have been deployed to Kyiv months in advance of the invasion, and that assassinating Zelensky was only part of their mission. As Fox News reported:
Former U.S. intelligence officials speculated to Fox News Digital that these mercenaries more likely have been operating in Kyiv for months because Russian President Vladimir Putin required on-the-ground intelligence in the Ukrainian capital in advance of the planned invasion that began five days ago.
One official said deploying the Wagner Group to assassinate Zelenskyy gives Putin the option to say, “that wasn’t me.” A second former U.S. official added that having the Wagner Group carry out judicial killings in Kyiv, perhaps by using a nerve agent or something non-traceable, could be the Russian government’s tactic because “something not attributable is an option Putin would want to have.”
Russian forces have moved into parts of eastern Ukraine and made a concentrated effort to take the capital of Kyiv. For his part, Zelensky has continued to oversee the defense of Ukraine from Kyiv, often making appeals to allies in Europe and to the United States for aid and military support.
In a speech last week, Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine claiming that the former soviet state which elected a Jewish president was overrun with Nazis and needed to be purified. Putin also claimed that Ukraine is an “inalienable part” of Russia.
“Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space. Since time immemorial, the people living in the south-west of what has historically been Russian land have called themselves Russians,” Putin said.
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