“According to the information we have, the enemy has assigned me as target number 1. My family is target number 2.” These chilling words are those of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video statement published Friday 25 February† Since then, his actions have been studied around the world and his survival is at the heart of the concerns. As written by New york Time*, the presence of this democratically elected leader would indeed complicate Moscow’s installation of a new grassroots government. Franceinfo returns to the safety of this statesman now at war.
It is “a central element”, according to France
The day after the start of the Russian attack, the safety of Volodymyr Zelensky was threatened, assured Jean-Yves LeDrian, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Friday 25 February on France Inter. 44-year-old leader heads a country Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to leave “the map of the states”.
Among his war goals, Vladimir Putin has a “denazification” of Ukraine and denounced a “junta” to power in Kiev, clearly showing that he wants to overthrow the 2019 elected Volodymyr Zelensky.
“President Zelensky’s security is central to what’s happening now“, the French foreign minister underlined. “It is important that he takes his place”he added.
†@JY_LeDrian “President Zelensky’s security is a central element of what is happening, and we are in a position to assist him if necessary, but it is important that he takes his place.” #le79Inter pic.twitter.com/gtWX0sVBGW
– France Inter (@franceinter) February 25, 2022
For his part, Alexander Makogonov, the first secretary of the Russian embassy, who was questioned by LCI on February 25, refused to commit to the fate of Volodymyr Zelensky.
When the fighting started, he took to the streets
In the days following the invasion, Volodymyr assured Zelensky that he would not leave Ukraine. “This is where the fight is. I need ammunition, not a taxi,” he launched.
lThus, during the second and third days of the clashes, the president appeared on the streets of Kiev, in a T-shirt and fleece jacket, without a helmet or bulletproof vest, as evidenced by two videos posted to his Telegram account. In the first he is surrounded bye are employees in front of the building of the presidency, proving his presence in Kiev † “We are all here to defend our independence, our state.” In the second film, he films himself with a laptop, alone, in front of a monument in the capital, the Gorodetsky House, also called the House of Chimeras.
His team has since taken more precautions
Since these videos, Volodymyr Zelensky was much more careful. The statesman also confided on Tuesday, March 1, that he had not seen his family for three days, CNN reports† and Reuters, who met him in his bunker in Kiev. In his videos published every day, he appears indoors, behind a desk and in front of a neutral background. “He doesn’t appear outside anymore so as not to give any information about where he might be, which would make him vulnerable. This is no coincidence.”Pay attentionspecial envoy of France 2 in Kiev, Marc de Chalvron, contacted by franceinfo on Monday 7 March.
Marc de Chalvron could see the precautions of the Ukrainian president’s entourageduring a press conference on Thursday, March 3. After being “brought to the presidential palace after a pre-arranged appointment”, the twenty international journalists were searched. Then they were led to the room. The presidential palace was “Diven in darkness for security reasons”, says the reporter, not knowing whether this ambiguity was intended for the Russian enemies or for the journalists. “Both is possible”appreciated Marc de Chalvron.
In the room, of which “the windows were barricaded with sandbags”the war reporter was nevertheless struck by the proximity of Volodymyr Zelensky with journalists. “Not a safe distance, he shook hands with us and sat down in a chair, facing us instead of behind a protective plexiglass window.”
Zelensky is still in Kiev
But the symbol represented by the Ukrainian president and his appearances remain essential to encourage the Ukrainian armed forces who, although much smaller in number than the Russian forces, still resist the invasion. After ten days of neutral background, Volodymyr Zelensky has therefore started to reappear in the capital.
After filming the view of Kiev from the window of the presidential palace in a video posted to Telegram on Monday, March 7, he spoke from his office for the first time since the conflict began. “I’m staying in Kiev, I’m not hiding and I’m not afraid of anyone”he claimed, before he “promises” not in the hands of westerners since the beginning of the war.
On Tuesday, March 8, Volodymyr Zelensky appeared again, this time on the street bankovain the center of Kiev, in front of a wall of barricades, according to a video on his official Instagram account.
At least one assassination attempt was foiled
According to the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, a recent assassination attempt on Volodymyr Zelensky was thwarted. according to Oleksiy danilovyouA unit of the Chechen security forces, called Kadyrovtsy, is behind this attempt. The members have been “destroyed” after Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) warned Ukrainian officials, Oleksiy Danilov claimed on Tuesday, March 1. on the TV channel Ukraine 24: “We are well aware of the special operation that would take place directly by the Kadyrovtsy to eliminate our president. And I can say that we have received information from the FSB, which today does not want to participate in this bloody war.” The Kremlin has not confirmed whether the aim of this armed group was indeed to kill Zelensky.
But according to some media, the number of attempts would be higher. So the Ukrainian president would have survived “at least three assassination attempts” in the week prior to March 3 writes the British newspaper The times*. According to the paper, these attempts were carried out by two groups: Mercenaries from the Kremlin-backed Wagner group and Chechen special forces. Both were thwarted by anti-war elements within Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). In Kiev, 400 Wagner mercenaries would be responsible for killing the Ukrainian president and his government, another article in the Time*, published on February 28.
This information has not been confirmed by the Ukrainian president’s office, questioned by Marc de Chalvron on Monday, March 7. “The agency even wonders how they could have been obtained,” says the reporter.
* Links followed by an asterisk are in English.