Ukrainian Security Service operatives broke up a Russian plot Tuesday to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky and other senior political and military figures.

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The security agency, known by the abbreviation SBU, said it had arrested two senior officers, both colonels, in the Department of State Security, which is tasked with the president’s personal protection. Also targeted were SBU Chairman Lieutenant General Vasyl Malyuk and the high-profile head of military intelligence, Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov. According to the Wall Street Journal, this operation was tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration and, I think, Thursday’s Victory Day shindig.

Malyuk said the plot was supposed to be a “gift” for Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of his Tuesday inauguration for another six-year term. A Kremlin spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The terrorist attack…was actually a failure of the Russian special services,” Malyuk said.

The plan allegedly called for suborning members of Zelensky’s personal protection detail to kidnap and later assassinate Zelensky under the cover of Russian missile and drone strikes.

This is not the first time Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials have been targeted for assassination. 


In an interview last year, Budanov said Ukrainian intelligence agencies had foiled several attempts on Zelensky’s life but didn’t say how many.

“Several times they seriously prepared certain operations: very seriously, carefully planned, they carried out preparatory measures,” he said at the time.

His remarks followed the detention of a Ukrainian woman who was allegedly spying on Zelensky’s location for Russia when he visited an area affected by the Kakhovka Dam explosion last summer.

Polish authorities arrested a man this spring, whom they named only as Pawel K, in what they called a Russian plot to attack the Ukrainian president. The authorities said the man was providing information to Moscow from Poland about an airport frequently used by both U.S. and Ukrainian military and politicians, including Zelensky and President Biden.

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During the initial Russian assault on Ukraine, Russian commando teams made attempts on Zelensky’s life.


BACKGROUND: Here’s How Volodymyr Zelensky Survived Three Assassination Attempts 


Whether by accident or design, a Russian missile detonated in the area where Zelensky was hosting Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Odesa. 


BACKGROUND: Russian Missile Narrowly Misses Motorcade Carrying Ukraine’s Zelensky and Greece’s Prime Minister


Budanov’s assassination was timed to be close to the operation against Zelensky.

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.

Budanov’s wife was the subject of a poisoning attempt in November.


RELATED: Putin’s War, Week 92. Ukraine Gets Its Own Divine Wind and With Friends Like China, Who Needs Enemies


The two colonels arrested had been recruited by the FSB well in advance of Russia’s illegal February 2022 invasion. It underscores the problem of senior Ukrainian officers having trained in Soviet military academies and developed friendships there. There has also been a wholesale recruitment of Ukrainians by the FSB for decades, particularly targeting people in the military and security services. Since the war started, the SBU has arrested over 2,000 Ukrainian citizens on charges of working for the Russian.

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This decapitation strike would have come at a critical time in the war and, had it succeeded, could have been a deciding factor.