Two Russian agents caught plotting to kill Volodymyr Zelensky as a gift for Putin

Two Russian agents have been arrested plotting to assassinate Volodymyr Zelensky as a “gift” to Vladimir Putin, Ukraine’s state security service said.

The assassination attempt reportedly took place shortly before Putin was sworn in for a new term in the Kremlin on Tuesday.

The alleged plan would include taking the Ukrainian president hostage before his execution.

Targets also reportedly include other senior Ukrainian officials.

The two suspected agents 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 Mr. 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 an inauguration gift to Putin, is indeed a failure of the Russian special services,” SBU chief 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 Mr. Zelensky.

The Ukrainian leader, who led his country’s efforts to repel Putin’s invasion, which entered its third year, said last fall that his security services had foiled at least five Russian plots aimed at murder.

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

Mr. 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 Mr. Budanov’s whereabouts so that 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.