The Ukrainian defense ministry claimed in a Facebook post on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin hired Russian mercenaries to kill Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“Today, another group of militants connected to Putin’s Russian propagandist and owner of the League (Wagner) PVK Eugen Prigožinim began to arrive in Ukraine. The main task of criminals is to eliminate the top military-political leadership of Ukraine,” the post stated, according to a translation by Facebook.
The post alleged that Putin “personally ordered another attack,” adding that the mercenaries’ “key targets” were Zelenskyy, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, and Andriy Ermak, a Ukrainian film producer.
“Russian occupiers, having not achieved the task set in the process of full-scale aggression against Ukraine, continue their attempts to destabilize the work of the Ukrainian authorities, demoralize society, coordinate the resistance movement and slow down the international cooperation of Ukraine aid,” the post continued. “The organization of actions on the first persons of our state is part of the occupiers’ strategy.”
“Note: Ukrainian army, special services and law enforcement agencies are well-known Kremlin plans,” it added. “We are ready for the rest of the aggressor both in the front and in the back. No terrorist attacks will succeed.”
Previous reports stated that mercenaries from Africa were being flown into Eastern Europe on a mission to decapitate Zelenskyy, according to Fox News. In response, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko implemented a nightly curfew, alerting residents to the dangerous possibility of being mistaken for enemy reconnaissance groups.
In February, President Joe Biden’s administration offered to help evacuate Zelenskyy from Kyiv after the capital city came under intense attacks from Russian forces. However, Zelenskyy declined, saying, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” according to Ukraine’s Embassy to the UK.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a press conference at the time that Zelenskyy remains a “prime target for Russian aggression.”
A senior U.S. intelligence official also told The Associated Press that the Biden administration had urged Zelenskyy to evacuate Kyiv, but Zelenskyy refused. He later released a video in which he said he would remain and Kyiv and not surrender, additionally rejecting rumors that he’d called for Ukrainians to surrender.
“We aren’t going to lay down weapons. We will protect the country,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that it’s our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of that.”