Ukraine war briefing: ‘Rocket, drone, rocket’ – alleged plots to kill Zelenskiy, Budanov

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  • Two Ukrainian security officials have been detained over an alleged Russian assassination plot against Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president. Luke Harding writes from Kyiv that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said it had exposed a network of agents run by Russia’s FSB that also intended to kill Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, and the SBU’s head, Vasyl Maliuk.

  • The plans included finding someone in the presidential entourage to capture and kill Zelenskiy, the SBU said; and to kill Budanov and others with a missile strike, kamikaze drones launched locally, then another missile strike to destroy the evidence of drones.

  • The SBU named three FSB intelligence officers behind the operation as Maxim Mishustin, Dmytro Perlin and Aleksii Kornev. In intercepted messages, Perlin referred to the missile attack on Budanov as a “big bird” and the drone as a “small bird”. He emphasised: “The order is rocket, drone, rocket.”

  • The SBU said it recovered drones, warheads and mines from one of the arrested Ukrainian alleged accomplices. He and others face charges of treason and terrorism. One of the alleged agents was a colonel serving in Ukraine’s state guard service, said to have met Kornev secretly before 2022 in a neighbouring European country.

  • Ukrainian prosecutors say they have examined debris from 21 of around 50 North Korean ballistic missiles launched by Russia between late December and late February. The office of the chief prosecutor, Andriy Kostin, told Reuters the missiles’ failure rate appeared to be high: “About half of the North Korean missiles lost their programmed trajectories and exploded in the air; in such cases the debris was not recovered.”

  • Use of North Korean missiles by Russia threatens a nearly two-decade consensus among permanent members of the UN security council on preventing North Korea expanding its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. Russia recently vetoed the annual renewal of UN sanctions monitoring of North Korea.

  • Russia has been shipping refined petroleum to North Korea at levels that appear to violate the mandates of the security council, a US official said on Thursday, adding that the US was planning new sanctions in response. The US would continue working with other countries to impose sanctions “against those working to facilitate arms and refined petroleum transfers between Russia and the DPRK”.

  • Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, has said he is open to discussing sending a Patriot system to Ukraine after German appeals to EU and Nato member states.
    Iohannis met with the US president, Joe Biden, at the White House on Tuesday.

  • Ukrainian forces on Tuesday attacked an oil storage depot and sparked a large fire, injuring five people, on the outskirts of the Russian-held city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, the region’s Russia-installed leader said. There was no official Ukrainian statement on the incident. Separatist fighters backed and financed by Russia seized control of large chunks of Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea.



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