As the Russia-Ukraine war drags on into the fourth week, Ukraine has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is continuing to send militia from the Wagner Group to assassinate its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other high-ranking Ukrainian politicians.
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The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence in Ukraine said in a Facebook post, “Another group of militants linked to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian propagandist close to Putin and owner of the Liga (Wagner), began arriving in Ukraine today.”
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“The main task of the criminals is to eliminate the top military and political leadership of Ukraine,” the post read.
WAGNER GROUP —RUSSIAN PARAMILITARY GROUP IN UKRAINE
The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine said that apart from Zelenskyy, “key targets” on the Russian mercenaries’ ‘hit list’ include Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Andriy Ermak, a Ukrainian film producer and lawyer serving as Zelenskyy’s chief advisor.
“Putin personally ordered another attack by one of the few proxies. “All previous attempts have ended in the failure and elimination of terrorists,” the post further read.
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For weeks, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence has been raising the alarm about thousands of Russian mercenaries from the private military firm ‘Liga’, formerly known as PMC Wagner, entering Ukraine to try and assassinate President Zelenskyy.
“The Russian occupiers, having failed to achieve their goals during the full-scale aggression against Ukraine, continue to try to destabilize the Ukrainian government, demoralise society, disrupt the resistance movement, and slow down Ukraine’s international cooperation,” Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine said on Sunday.
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It said that the “Kremlin’s plans” were well known to Ukraine.
Last month, The Times of London reported Wagner mercenaries had been flown into Ukraine from Africa to decapitate Zelenskyy. As soon as Ukraine got whiff of the development, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a night curfew. He warned that any resident venturing out during the curfew could be mistaken for enemy sabotage and reconnaissance groups.
WHO’S BACKING WAGNER GROUP
Russian businessman Prigozhin, who has close ties to the Kremlin, was among several Russian oligarchs on whom the US’s Joe Biden administration imposed several sanctions earlier this month in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Prigozhin is allegedly backing the Wagner Group financially. However, he has consistently denied any affiliation to the group. Prigozhin has been on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted list for allegedly interfering in US elections from early 2014 to at least in 2018 through the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, infamously dubbed as the “troll factory”.
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Some reports have said that Chechen fighters have also been tasked with eliminating Ukrainian politicians.
The Wagner Group, established in 2014, has been considered a proxy group of Russia abroad, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Dmitry Utkiny, a veteran of both Chechen wars and a former member of the Main Intelligence Directorate, founded the organisation. Wagner Group operatives played key roles in Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.