The Ukrainian intelligence service has made multiple attempts to kill Russian President Vladimir Putin. A high-ranking official admitted to actively plotting the leader’s assassination after a recent drone attack on the Kremlin.
“Putin is noticing that we are getting closer and closer to him,” Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy head of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate, told Germany’s Welt newspaper in an interview. He added that Putin is number one on the kill list “because he coordinates and decides what happens.”
The Ukrainian intelligence official claimed his agency had failed to kill Putin because he “stays holed up,” but suggested another attempt could soon be made as the Russian leader “is now beginning to stick his head out.”
Ukrainian officials have admitted to previously attempting to kill Putin. In an interview with Ukrainska Pravda last year, the head of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Chief Intelligence Directorate, Kyrylo Budanov, claimed “There was an attempt to assassinate Putin…[It was an] Absolutely unsuccessful attempt, but it really happened… It was about [March 2022].”
Three weeks ago, two unmanned aerial vehicles were downed over the Kremlin, where Putin keeps an office. While the head of state was not present at the complex when the attack occurred, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow considered the incident to be an assassination attempt against Putin.
Kiev continues to deny any involvement in the attack, even after US officials told the New York Times the operation was, in fact, orchestrated by the Ukrainian government.
In the first month of the war, then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett engaged Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in peace talks that nearly ended the war. The negotiations were blocked by Washington, but Putin vowed not to target Zelensky with any assassination attempts during those interactions.
Though it appears that Moscow has kept to that pledge, is unclear if it will continue to do so following the drone incident in the Russian capital. Zelensky has spent the last several weeks touring foreign countries to meet with allied officials, part of Kiev’s efforts to procure new military and financial aid from the West.
In response to the drone attack on the Kremlin, Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president who is now a high-ranking defense official, called for Zelensky’s “physical elimination.” A statement from Putin’s office also noted that “Russia reserves the right to take countermeasures wherever and whenever it deems appropriate.”
Skibitsky went on to reveal another name on Kiev’s kill list: Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. “We’re trying to kill him,” he said, adding “Our priority is to eliminate the unit commander who orders his men to attack.”
The Ukrainian intelligence official also named two other high-ranking officials in Moscow. “In the end, everyone will have to answer for their actions,” he continued. “Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu planned the attack and now they cannot turn back.”
Asked whether Russian civilians could end up on the kill list, Skibitsky did not blink, telling Welt that “We are at war and these are our enemies. If an important figure manufactures and finances weapons for [Russia], then his elimination would save the lives of many civilians.”
“According to international conventions, this is a legitimate goal,” he said.
American officials reached by the New York Times last October said the US government believes Kiev has already carried out targeted assassinations on Russian soil. Last year, Darya Dugina, the daughter of Russian intellectual and Putin ally Alexander Dugin, was killed by a car bomb. It is suspected her father was the intended target of the attack.