Killing Zelensky

The Russians reportedly have launched multiple assassination attempts against Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. So far none has succeeded. This account is from the London Times:

President Zelensky has survived at least three assassination attempts in the past week, The Times has learnt.

Two different outfits have been sent to kill the Ukrainian president — mercenaries of the Kremlin-backed Wagner group and Chechen special forces. Both have been thwarted by anti-war elements within Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).

Can this really be true? If the Times’ account is accurate, some elements of Russia’s government are actively trying to thwart Putin’s assassination plots.

Wagner mercenaries in Kyiv have sustained losses during their attempts and are said to have been alarmed by how accurately the Ukrainians had anticipated their moves. A source close to the group said it was “eerie” how well briefed Zelensky’s security team appeared to be.

Either because of leaks from other Russian sources, as this article suggests, or perhaps because of penetration of Russian communications by Western intelligence services.

On Saturday an attempt on Zelensky’s life was foiled on the outskirts of Kyiv. Ukrainian security officials said a cadre of Chechen assassins had been “eliminated” before they could reach the president.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, told Ukrainian TV channels that Russian spies had tipped them off about the planned assassination.

Ukrainian officials claim the information that led to the deaths of the Chechens came from disgruntled agents in the FSB who oppose the invasion.

Of course this could be disinformation intended to sow confusion on the Russian side.

The Wagner mercenaries were unaware of the Chechen assassins but have carried out their own attempts to decapitate the government, after being embedded in Kyiv for more than six weeks, tracking the activities of 24 high-profile Ukrainian targets.

The group had been told to await the arrival of the Spetsnaz — Russian special forces — to provide them with a secure corridor out of Kyiv once the assassinations had been completed.

It sounds paranoid, but apparently there is good reason to think that Russia placed agents inside Kiev weeks ago with instructions to assassinate Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders.

How any attempted assassination would be carried out remains to be seen:

The risk of such an operation would be very high and Wagner will be braced for casualties, they added. One theory is that once the group established Zelensky’s location, they could put a laser target marker on him and the Russian air force could fly in and drop a bomb.

At this point, one wonders how much Russia would gain by killing Zelensky. Reportedly, the Russian strategy was to take Ukraine with a blitzkrieg offensive and quickly install a puppet government. If so, that plan has gone by the boards. At this point, killing President Zelensky wouldn’t fool anyone, wouldn’t facilitate installing a pro-Russian regime, and would fuel unending resistance that Russia could hardly overcome with any plausible level of violence and repression.

Which argues for a negotiated cease fire that would allow Putin to save face. Except that it wouldn’t: he is all in on conquering Ukraine, but there is good reason to think that the oligarchs and some elements of Russia’s government, likely including the military, are appalled by Putin’s Ukraine adventure. For Mad Vlad, there may be no way out. Somewhere, people are betting on who will live longer, Zelensky or Putin.

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