Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that at least “five or six” Russian attempts to assassinate him have been foiled by his security services.
The wartime leader, speaking from his fortress in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, said the volume of attempts had turned him almost numb to the danger. He compared the later attempts to catching the Covid-19 infection.
“The first one is very interesting, when it is the first time, and after that it is just like Covid,” he told The Sun in an interview. The first attempt carried panic, he added.
“First of all people don’t know what to do with it and it’s looking very scary. And then after that, it is just intelligence sharing with you that one more group came to Ukraine to [attempt] this,” he told the tabloid.
The president of Ukraine claimed Vladimir Putin still wanted “very much” to topple him as the war raged on for 21 months. As per Russia, the deadline for that operation was by the end of the year, Mr Zelensky told the British daily.
“The name of the operation is Maidan 3. It is meant to change the president. It’s bye bye. Maybe it is not by killing. I mean it’s changing. They will use any instruments they have,” he said.
“So that’s the idea, to the end of the year. They have even named the operation. But you see we can live with it.”
The Ukrainian president added that Russia parachuted special forces into Kyiv to assassinate him on the first day of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
From there began the operation to turn Mr Zelensky’s office and each of his next locations into a fortress. His closest team was handed rifles and body armour and his bodyguards shut off any access to his office using makeshift barricades and bits of plywood.
On being asked how many attempts he has dodged, the president says he really doesn’t know.
The Ukrainian president did not answer the question on whether or not Ukraine had also planned similar assassination plots in response to Russia.
Mr Zelensky yet again denied the assessment on the conflict hitting a stalemate, which Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny said is due to technological and tactical parity between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
“In the morale, there is no stalemate. We are at our home. Russians are on our land. Therefore there is no stalemate in this. As regards the sky, there is no stalemate. Russians have more power in that. And really, how to move forward when you can’t control the sky? (sic)” he told the paper.
Ukrainian officials have strongly pushed back on suggestions they are in a stalemate with Russia after a long-awaited counteroffensive over the summer did not radically change the battle lines on the ground.
In a visit to Washington last week, Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office, provided no details but confirmed that Ukrainian forces had finally pushed through to the east bank of the Dnieper River, which has essentially served as the immovable front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces for months.
However, as winter sets in it will become more difficult for either side to make large gains due to ground conditions.