A group of killers began arriving in Ukraine on Sunday with Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence saying their mission was to eliminate the country’s top military and political leadership. The Russian president “personally ordered another attack by one of his proxies”, according to a claim in one report understood to refer to the Wagner group.
The report added that all previous attempts had ended in failure with the “elimination” of Wagner mercenaries at the hands of Ukrainian forces.
Ukrainian news site Unian reports that the group was only stopped after an anti-war faction within Russia’s secret service told Mr Zelensky’s team where the squad was.
Other targets reportedly on the squad’s hit list include Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak.
Since the war began on February 24 there have been reports of Mr Zelensky surviving between three to 12 assassination attempts.
Mikhail Podolyak, head of the president’s office, told Pravda.com earlier this month that he believed there were more than a dozen attempts.
Mercenaries from the Kremlin-backed Wagner group and Chechen special forces were allegedly sent to assassinate Mr Zelensky.
The Wagner group hit list is also said to include the Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko and his brother Wladimir.
A source with knowledge of the Wagner group’s activities said between 2,000 and 4,000 members arrived in Ukraine in January with different missions.
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It said: “Wagner Group has recruited, trained and sent private military operatives to conflict zones around the world to fuel violence, loot natural resources and intimidate civilians in violation of international law, including international human rights law.”
Russian men claiming to be part of the group travelled to Syria on military planes to help Bashar al Assad loyalists in Syria.
Russia has insisted its campaign was only carried out by air.
News of the reported assassination bid comes as Russia continues to pound the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol.
Ukraine’s military warned the public on Tuesday of more indiscriminate Russian shelling of infrastructure.
Kyiv appealed to Moscow to allow emergency supplies into Mariupol and let out at least 100,000 civilians who want to leave.
More than 3.5 million people have fled abroad from Ukraine, according to United Nations data.
Meanwhile, Mr Zelenskiy said it would impossible to negotiate an end to the war without meeting Putin.