Espreso. Global

Ukraine has plan in case of Zelenskyy's death

1 August, 2023 Tuesday

Ukraine has a plan in case President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dies during the war, although Ukrainian officials refuse to talk about it publicly

Politico reports this.

It is noted that since Zelenskyy rejected the West's offer of evacuation at the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, telling his future American allies: "I need ammunition, not a ride," the Ukrainian president has played a key role in rallying international support for the fight against Russia.

Politico recalled that a few weeks after the full-scale invasion, Zelenskyy's top adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said that Russian sabotage and intelligence groups, including Chechens and Wagner mercenaries, had attempted at least a dozen serious assassination attempts on the president.

It is clear that the risks are less now than in the first chaotic weeks of the war, when Russian tanks were advancing on the Ukrainian capital and few believed that the nation at war would survive. But no one in the Ukrainian government or parliament doubts that the danger remains high.

The publication notes that, despite the reluctance of Ukrainian officials to talk about it, a backup plan does exist in case of Zelenskyy's death. Last year, this was actually confirmed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said in an interview that "Ukrainians have plans" for "continuity of government."

Formally, the constitutional line of succession is clear. When the president is unable to fulfill his duties, the chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine will assume his duties. The publication notes that the current Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Ruslan Stefanchuk, does not have a particularly high trust rating among the population, but this is unlikely to be a problem.

“There’s a strong leadership team and I think we would see collective government,” explains Adrian Karatnycky, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center.

The governing council will most likely include Stefanchuk as a figurehead, as well as the head of the Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. Instead, Valerii Zaluzhnyi will remain as the country's top general.

Karatnycky noted that he hopes to see a role for TV host Serhiy Prytula, who is currently conducting major charitable initiatives and has a sky-high trust rating.

“The country has reached a point of very substantial solidarity and national unity, so if something terrible happened to Zelenskyy it would not be as decisive as you might think,” said Karatnycky.

He also emphasized that Ukraine has a well-established administrative, military, and diplomatic machine.

Politico notes that world history also confirms the above, as experts from the US National Bureau of Economic Research estimate that 59 assassinations of national leaders have taken place over the past 150 years. According to the authors of the article, the assassination of autocrats causes significant changes in the country's institutions, while the assassination of democrats does not.

“Assassination has never changed the history of the world,” British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli confidently pronounced weeks after President Abraham Lincoln was shot dead while watching a play at Washington D.C.’s Ford’s Theater. The assassination indeed had little effect in reversing the reforms of his administration.

The situation in Ukraine is, of course, special. Thanks to the strengthening of its democratic institutions, it is far from the situation of the decline of the Roman Republic, whose days were almost certainly numbered, regardless of whether the March Eid assassination succeeded or not. And Europe is already at war.

While Zelenskyy's death would have been a psychological shock, Karatnycky said that to assess the likely impact, one must consider how Ukraine has been transformed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

“It is important to remember that the key factors in Ukraine’s struggle against Russian aggression are the resilience of the armed forces, the skill of its command and victories on the front, said Knyazhytsky, the opposition lawmaker. 

Attempts to assassinate Zelenskyy

On February 25, 2022, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his address that there were many fakes about his alleged departure from Ukraine, but Zelenskyy assured that he remained in Ukraine with his family.

On March 1, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said that two groups of Kadyrov's men were preparing an assassination attempt on President Zelenskyy.

Later, the British newspaper The Times wrote that at least three assassination attempts had been made on President Zelenskyy since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On June 18, 2022, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov said that since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, five attempts had been made to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In July, General Alnur Mussayev, former head of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee, said that from the first day of the war, the goal was to destroy Ukraine's leadership, and that Russia's goal would be strengthened even more.

In April 2023, the US Defense Intelligence Agency considered four scenarios for the development of the war in Ukraine. One of them was the death of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Instead, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that he had already gotten used to the constant risk to his life. In his opinion, Vladimir Putin's threat to his life is greater, because "the whole world wants to kill him."

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