Ukraine’s government is prepared for the possibility of President Volodymyr Zelensky being killed in a Russian strike or assassination attempt, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has revealed.
Mr Blinken was speaking on Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation. He told host Margaret Brennan that there were “plans in place” for such an outcome amid Russia’s bloody assault, but refused to give many details.
“The Ukrainians have plans in place, that I’m not going to talk about or get into any details on, to make sure that there is what we would call ‘continuity of government’ one way or another. And let me leave it at that,” he told Ms Brennan.
Mr Blinken’s comments come as media reports have indicated that Mr Zelensky has survived several assassination attempts over the past few weeks since Russia’s invasion began. While the reports are not verified and come from Ukrainian officials, Russia’s military is actively shelling Kyiv and other cities in attempts to take out military and civilian infrastructure that many observers have said has spread to the unobstructed targeting of civilian targets.
The US secretary of state visited the Ukrainian border with Poland over the weekend and joined Ukraine’s foreign minister for an excursion several feet across the border. The US and Nato allies have begun a process of steady support for Ukraine’s military in the form of weapons, equipment and vehicles but have refused to directly engage Russian forces in defense of Ukraine’s territory.
Some lawmakers in the US and abroad have called for Nato to enforce a no-fly zone across all of Ukraine’s airspace, but such a move would almost certainly draw the US and the West into a direct war with nuclear-armed Russia. The Biden administration has not signaled support for a no-fly zone.
Mr Blinken also took the time during his interview with CBS on Sunday to praise Mr Zelensky’s wartime leadership.
“The leadership that President Zelensky has shown, that the entire government have shown, is remarkable,” he told CBS.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has warned that his country may press its invasion further and push for the dissolution of Ukraine’s government and sovereignty entirely if Ukraine’s military does not cease its resistance, which according to most reporting has mostly stalled the Russian advance in the country’s north.
At present, Russia claims that its efforts are to replace Ukraine’s government with one that would guarantee the country’s neutrality between Russia and Nato, which Mr Zelensky’s government has indicated interest in joining. Moscow continues to view the defense pact formed to counter the Soviet Union as a threat to its influence around eastern Europe.
Mr Zelensky’s immediate successor under Ukraine’s constitution is Ruslan Stefanchuk, chair of the country’s parliament. US officials told New York Times that based on discussions with the Ukrainian government, Mr Stefanchuk would continue Ukraine’s resistance against Russia were the president to be incapacitated or killed.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.