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Assassination plot against Zelensky foiled and unit sent to kill him ‘destroyed,’ Ukraine says

Russia is aiming to erase Ukraine, its history and people, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video on March 2, the seventh day of Moscow's invasion. (Video: Reuters)
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A recent alleged assassination plot against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was foiled over the weekend and the Chechen servicemen sent from Russia were “destroyed,” a Ukrainian security leader said Tuesday.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said during a broadcast marathon airing on Ukrainian TV channels that officials were recently tipped off that a unit of Kadyrovites, elite Chechen special forces, was on its way to kill Zelensky. After Ukrainian officials were informed by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the Chechen special forces were killed Saturday on the outskirts of Kyiv, Danilov said.

“We are well aware of the special operation that was to take place directly by the Kadyrovites to eliminate our president. And I can say that we have received information from the FSB, who today do not want to take part in this bloody war,” Danilov said. “And thanks to this, the Kadyrov elite group was destroyed, which came here to eliminate our president.”

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov confirmed on his Telegram channel Monday that two servicemen had died and six others were injured, but neither the Chechens nor the Kremlin has publicly responded to Ukraine’s claim that Kadyrovites were sent to kill Zelensky and were eliminated.

Russian forces continue their deadly assault on key Ukrainian cities, prompting some local officials to warn Wednesday that their cities were near the breaking point. Kyiv endured more overnight attacks, while Russian forces faced stiff resistance from Ukrainian military and civilian defenders throughout the country.

Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to remain in Ukraine as Russia continues its advance. The president's past life as an actor may have prepared him for this moment. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post, Photo: Brian Monroe/The Washington Post)

Nearly 680,000 Ukrainians had fled the country as of Tuesday, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, in what might eventually be “Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century.”

Moscow steps up assault on residential areas, Biden closes U.S. airspace to Russian planes

In the United States, President Biden put the invasion at the center of his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, hailing a unified international backlash that has made Russia “now isolated from the world more than ever.” Zelensky and Biden spoke hours before the address about sanctions against Russia as well as U.S. defense assistance to Ukraine during the invasion. Biden declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “badly miscalculated” how Ukraine and the world would respond to the invasion.

“He thought he could roll into Ukraine — and the world would roll over. Instead, he met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined,” Biden said. “He met the Ukrainian people.”

What’s happening in Ukraine? Our reporters answer your questions about the Russian invasion.

The Ukrainian president has posted videos from Kyiv, where he’s leading the country’s military response, and has been joined by government officials, military members and civilian defenders in protecting the capital. Zelensky has said that he has become the Kremlin’s “target No. 1,” with his family as “target No. 2.”

“They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state,” he said in an address last week.

Zelensky, who told CNN and Reuters on Tuesday that he hasn’t seen his family in recent days, noted that Ukraine is “iconic” and deserves to be defended against Russia and Putin.

“Ukraine is the heart of Europe, and now I think Europe sees Ukraine is something special for this world,” he said from a bunker. “That’s why [the] world can’t lose this something special.”

Biden wanted to use the State of the Union for his agenda. Then Russia started a land war.

According to the Ukrainian newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda, Putin instructed Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, last month to carry out the assassination.

“The task of the Chechens was defined as the cleansing of Kyiv, the physical liquidation and preventive work with Ukrainian leaders,” the newspaper wrote.

Danilov said he was thankful for members of Russia’s Federal Security Service who alerted Ukrainian officials to the assassination plot. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed over the weekend that the Ukrainian military had defeated a special unit of the Chechen National Guard. Among those killed was Gen. Magomed Tushaev, the commander of the 141st motorized regiment of the Chechen National Guard, reported Ukrayinska Pravda.

Danilov clarified on Ukrainian TV that the Kadyrovites were divided into two groups, and the one that was “destroyed” was tracked down in Hostomel, near the airport.

“Another group is now, so to speak, under fire,” he said.

David L. Stern contributed to this report.