Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he has lost count of the assassination attempts he has survived, comparing them to episodes of Covid.
In an interview with the British tabloid The Sun, he said he had survived “no fewer than” five or six assassination attempts since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, but that each subsequent attempt made it less intimidating.
NBC News could not independently verify Zelenskyy’s claims about attempts on his life.
“The first one is very interesting, when it’s the first time, and then it’s like Covid,” Zelenskyy said. “First of all, people don’t know what to do with it and it looks very scary. And then after that, it’s just an intelligence sharing with you that another group has come to Ukraine to (attempt) this. »
Zelensky regularly travels across the country, visiting front lines and liberated towns, under tight security. In the capital kyiv, he works in a high-security complex. At the start of the war, he said he and his family were Russia’s main targets, but Ukraine rarely publicly revealed the attempts on his life.
In August, Ukrainian authorities said they had arrested an informant who shared intelligence with Russia as part of a plot to assassinate Zelensky.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, it was widely expected that it would quickly invade the country. The initial success of the Ukrainian counterattack and the failure of Russian forces to overthrow the democratically elected government in kyiv led to what its top general calls a stalemate.
Zelensky told The Sun that Russia “still very much wants” to oust him from power, and he even claimed to know the code name of its latest mission to oust him; his deadline, he said, is the end of the year.
“The name of the operation is Maidan 3. It aims to change the president,” he said. “Maybe it’s not by killing. I mean, it changes. They will use whatever instruments they have.
Maidan Nezalezhnosti, also known as Maidan, is a square in the heart of kyiv that has been the scene of mass protests over the years. In 2014, a movement based there led to a bloody rebellion and the overthrow of the country’s pro-Russian government, precipitating Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula and war with Kremlin-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine. Moscow called the 2014 Maidan protests an illegal coup.
Zelensky, a former comedian, has become a symbol of Ukraine’s fight against Russia. His iconic military outfits, stubble and daily video updates about the war have made him a cult figure in the West. Many military observers credit its persistence in keeping the war in Ukraine and its military needs at the top of the international agenda for the country’s ability to repel the much more superior Russian army in terms of numbers and combat power, for so long.
But with the escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the war in Ukraine has received less international attention, and Zelenzky has tried to ease internal tensions with his top military commander, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi , who suggested earlier this month that the war is now at a stalemate – something Zelensky has denied – as the vaunted counter-offensive has failed to bring major breakthroughs for Kiev.
This raises the question of how long the war can last and whether Western military aid to Ukraine, including from Washington, will begin to dry up.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a surprise visit to kyiv on Monday, signaling that’s not the case, saying Ukraine’s fight is “a marathon, not a sprint” and announced an additional $100 million aid package, providing additional artillery munitions, air defense capabilities and anti-tank weapons.
Speaking to The Sun, Zelenskyy said Ukrainians are war-weary, but their will to fight Russia remains strong. “In terms of morale, there is no impasse,” he said, according to the newspaper. ” We are at home. The Russians are on our land. There is therefore no impasse in this matter.
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