Ukraine says it arrested Russian agents who plotted Zelenskiy’s murder

(Reuters) – Ukraine’s security services said they arrested two Russian agents who plotted the assassination of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other top officials as “a gift” to Vladimir Poutine as he was sworn in for a new term in the Kremlin on Tuesday.

The two men were Ukrainian State Guard colonels recruited by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) who leaked classified information to Moscow, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on the Telegram app.

They were tasked with finding someone close to the presidential guard who would take Zelensky hostage and later kill him, the SBU statement said, without specifying when the alleged plot was foiled.

“The terrorist attack, which was supposed to be a gift to Putin for his inauguration, was indeed a failure of the Russian special services,” SBU head Vasyl Maliuk was quoted as saying by his agency on Telegram.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

The Kremlin declined to comment last month when asked about the arrest in Poland of a man accused of working with Russian intelligence services to plot a possible assassination attempt on Zelenskiy.

The Ukrainian leader, who led his country’s efforts to repel the more than two-year-old Russian invasion, said last fall that his security services had foiled at least five Russian plots to assassinate him.

The spy group also planned to “eliminate” Maliuk and Kyrylo Budanov, the head of military intelligence, the SBU said.

Budanov’s assassination was supposed to take place before Orthodox Easter Sunday, May 5, the statement added.

The agents sought to inform the Russian side of Budanov’s whereabouts so they could carry out missile and drone attacks there, he added. One of the arrested men was involved in transporting and storing drones and explosives for the operation, the statement added.

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa; editing by Tom Balmforth)