By Business Insider and published MSN News plus BBC
A UKRAINIAN security and defence chief said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces have thwarted an assassination plot against President Volodymyr Zelensky, using a tip-off from members of Russia’s security services.
An elite group of Chechen special forces — known as the Kadyrovites — was dispatched by Russia to “eliminate our president” but was “destroyed directly,” said Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, according to a Telegram post written on Tuesday by the Centre for Strategic Communications. Axios first reported the story.
Danilov said Ukraine had “received information” about the plot against Zelensky from individuals in Russia’s Federal Security Services, a successor to the KGB. The supposed informants “do not want to take part in this bloody war,” Danilov said.
“And thanks to this, I can say that Kadyrov’s elite group was destroyed directly, which came here to eliminate our president,” he said.
He added that the alleged assassins were now split into two groups, with one destroyed in the town of Gostomel and the other “under fire.”
Several reports of attempted assassinations against Zelensky have emerged since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine last Thursday. Zelensky himself said “enemy sabotage groups” had entered Kyiv and that he was their “number one target,” though he insists on remaining in the capital.
On Monday, The Times of London reported that The Wagner Group, a Russian private militia allied with President Vladimir Putin, flew 400 mercenaries into Kyiv to assassinate Zelensky in return for what the outlet described as a “handsome financial bonus.”
Danilov’s Tuesday announcement is one of the latest victories claimed by Ukrainian authorities, who frequently report they’ve inflicted heavy casualties on Russian troops trying to advance into Ukraine’s major population centres.
But the accuracy of these claims remains unclear; Moscow has been silent on the exact losses suffered by its forces, as well as the existence of the supposed death squads on Zelensky and his government.
Mixed reports coming out of Kherson
BBC is awaiting confirmation of Russia’s claim to have captured the southern Ukrainian port city of Kherson.
Earlier Moscow said it was now in “full control” of the city, making it the largest in Ukraine to fall since the beginning of the invasion.
But the region’s governor has said Kherson is completely surrounded by Russian forces, appearing to contradict the claim.
The city’s mayor has also posted on Facebook: “We are still Ukraine. Still firm.”
How are the Russian military advances going?
Military analysts at the US-based Institute for Study of War have pushed out their latest assessment of Russia’s campaign. Here are the latest key takeaways:
Kyiv: The Ukraine capital remains Moscow’s main war operation. Russia is setting up conditions to encircle the capital with advances from the west and east of the city. Analysts believe the 64km-long convoy still north of the city is there to support an attack from the west.
Kharkiv: Shelling and aerial bombardments continue. Analysts believe Russia is launching an aerial attack first before it goes in with a renewed ground attack on either Wednesday or Thursday.
In the south, Russian forces are aiming to shore up their seizure of Kherson, which could clear the way for renewed drives onto Odessa and Mykolaiv – which would knock out Ukraine’s port access.
They are also lining up troops to encircle Mariupol to the east – which would create a “land bridge” for Russian forces to travel freely between the Russian mainland and Crimea.
Oil hits $110 a barrel despite emergency measures
Oil prices have surged on international energy markets despite new measures aimed at calming concerns about the impact of the Ukraine invasion.
Brent crude – the international benchmark for oil prices – has topped $110 (£82) a barrel, marking the highest level seen in more than seven years.
The rise came even after the International Energy Agency’s members agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil from emergency stockpiles.
What was Biden’s message to Putin?
US President Joe Biden’s annual State of the Union speech is billed as a message to Congress setting out his agenda.
But in the shadow of war in Ukraine, the president spent the first 15 minutes on his biggest foreign policy challenge to date. And his comments on the invasion were tailored to four distinct audiences – Vladimir Putin, EU allies, Ukrainians and the American people.
The most emotional moment came early in his speech, when Biden thanked Ukrainian ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova, who was seated in the balcony next to Jill Biden and other distinguished guests.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said.
But for Vladmir Putin, Biden’s message was blunt – the Russian president had “badly miscalculated” and his nation’s economic pain was just beginning.
And he added that the US would fight for “every inch” of Nato territory were the Russians to expand their attack.
Top: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images via JTA and published by Times of Israel
Home Page: Russian forces have used explosive weapons with a wide impact area. Photo: Getty Images and published by BBC