Two Ukrainian counterintelligence officers were allegedly recruited by Moscow to kidnap and kill President Zelensky as a “gift” to Putin ahead of his inauguration.

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), Ukraine’s main intelligence agency, reported on Tuesday that it had uncovered a plot by a network of Russian FSB agents to assassinate Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and several other high-ranking Ukrainian officials. 

Two Ukrainian counterintelligence officers were detained for taking part in the conspiracy. They were allegedly tasked with kidnapping and then killing the President last weekend, during the Orthodox Easter celebrations, The Kyiv Independent wrote.

According to SBU chief Vasyl Maliuk, the planned attack was directly supervised by Russia’s FSB from Moscow, and it “was supposed to be a gift to [President] Putin for his inauguration,” which took place on Tuesday, May 7th. 

The intelligence agency said that the Russian plot relied heavily on identifying and recruiting perpetrators from among Zelensky’s larger security detail, “who could take the head of state hostage and then later kill him.”

The two Ukrainian colonels who were eventually tasked with the job were members of the country’s State Security Administration (UDO), Kyiv’s domestic counterintelligence service. They are also accused of leaking classified information to Moscow.

The two officers have been detained and are charged with treason and attempted assassination, both of which carry life sentences in prison.

The plot also involved eliminating two other high-ranking targets: SBU chief Vasyl Maliuk, and the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence (HUR), Kyrylo Budanov. 

According to the SBU, Budanov’s assassination was planned to take place just before the Orthodox Easter (celebrated on May 5th this year). While the FSB agents were tracking Budanov’s movements, one of the now-detained UDO colonels was allegedly supplying the network with FPV drones, warheads for portable missile launchers, and even anti-personnel mines. 

The plan was to first use a missile to hit Budanov’s location, then use drones to kill any remaining people at the site one by one. Finally, there was supposed to be another missile strike to clean up the evidence of the drone attacks, the SBU said.

This is not the first time Zelensky has been the target of assassination plots. Late last year, the president said there had been at least five attempts on his life since the war started. In April, a joint Ukrainian and Polish law enforcement operation led to the arrest of a Polish citizen who allegedly offered to help Moscow assassinate Zelensky.

President Putin has also survived at least six assassination attempts while in office, including one shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, overseen by General Budanov, the HUR chief targeted by last week’s failed Russian plot.

Social media users have immediately begun speculating whether the official narrative about the two colonels’ alleged FSB recruitment was true, or a cover-up of the fact that the men acted alone or perhaps part of a larger Ukrainian conspiracy but still independent of Russia, aiming to take control of Kyiv through a coup.

Some even pointed out the similarity to Hitler’s famous assassination attempt by Baron von Stauffenberg, a colonel of the Third Reich, almost exactly 80 years ago—calling what happened Zelensky’s “Valkyrie moment.”

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