‘They can appear from the shadows, do very violent things and then disappear again, without it being obvious who was responsible,’ these were the words used to describe the 400 mercenaries Putin assigned to assassinate the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to British media.
Last night, it was reported that more than 400 Russian mercenaries had been brought in from Africa to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Wagner Group, a private militia, is said to have received orders from Vladimir Putin to assassinate Zelensky and 23 other government officials in order for Moscow to assume control of its eastern European neighbor.
According to the Times, the army-for-hire, led by oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin – a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin renowned as ‘Putin’s chef’ – was brought in five weeks earlier and is being paid a large fee for the job.
The highly-trained agents are said to be waiting for permission from the Kremlin to strike, with Ukraine’s prime minister, cabinet, and mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko and his brother Wladimir – both boxing champions who’ve become emblematic figures at front lines of the capital – on their target list.
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The plots were thwarted when they entered the Ukrainian government’s higher echelons on Saturday morning.
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Kyiv responded by imposing a 36-hour ‘hard’ curfew, forcing everybody to stay indoors so that soldiers could comb the streets for Russian saboteurs.
Citizens were told that if they were seen outdoors during the curfew hours, they could be ‘liquidated,’ as they could be mistaken for the adversary.
According to a source familiar with the Wagner Group’s operations, approximately 2,000 and 4,000 mercenaries landed in Ukraine in January, although with distinct tasks.
Some were dispatched to the east of the country’s rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, while the 400 men entrusted with eliminating Zelensky arrived in Kyiv from Belarus.
The organization is believed to be following Zelesnky and his coworkers about on their cellphones, claiming to be able to track them at all times.
Another insider said that the hired killers have been advised to slow down while Putin meets with Zelensky for ‘peace talks’ this week.
However, they have reportedly been briefed that Russian President Vladimir Putin has no inclination to achieve an agreement, describing the conference on the Belarusian border as “smoke and mirrors.”
The revelation of their assassination plots did not seem to bother Zelensky, who declared in a speech to the public that he was ‘target number one’ and that Russian special forces were seeking him.
‘I need ammunition, not a ride,’ he told President Joe Biden when the US volunteered to evacuate him.
Wagner has been on the ground in Ukraine to guide Russian tanks to the city, and has undertaken secret operations across Africa and the Middle East, including in Syria.
‘They are very effective because they are hard to pin down,’ said General Sir Richard Barrons, a former commander of Joint Forces Command.
‘They can appear from the shadows, do very violent things and then disappear again, without it being obvious who was responsible. They are not directly linked to the Russian government and therefore they are plausibly deniable.’
According to the New York Times, the militia was informed on Putin’s intentions for Ukraine in December, well before the Russian army.
According to the mercenaries, soldiers and generals were frightened to resist the plans to invade, and many were executed for doing just that.