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Russian agent sent to assassinate Ukrainian leaders sentenced to jail

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Dmitry Terekhov on Flickr

Late last year, Ukrainian security personnel announced that they had foiled an attempt by Russian intelligence to assassinate the Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov, and other public figures. 

This week, one of the men sent to assassinate the Ukrainian officials was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The assassin, whose name was withheld, lived in Luhansk, Oblast, and supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its war in the Donbas against Ukraine in 2014. He also participated in hostilities on the side of the Russian occupation forces as part of the LPR (Luhansk People’s Republic) People’s Militia. 

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the assassin was recruited by representatives of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. He was tasked with organizing the targeted assassination of Ukrainian leaders and was supposed to be paid $100,000 for each assassination.

Related: Guerrilla attacks against Russian interests in Belarus are increasing

The man sentenced was detained by counter-intelligence officers of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) and officers from Special Operations Center A. Ukraine published a video in Telegram that showed armed security agents subduing and handcuffing two men in civilian clothing who were approaching a car. One of the men had arrived in Ukraine from Russia via Belarus. The Security Service didn’t specify how they came to identify and arrest the suspects.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor’s Office said the agent’s first targets would have been an advisor to a Ukrainian minister and National Corps Party leader Andrii Biletskyi who had served as the commander of the reconnaissance unit of the Azov Regiment. If he were successful, he would then be tasked with assassinating the Minister of Defense and the head of Military Intelligence.

The Russian intelligence service has often assassinated targets at home and abroad. A high-profile assassination attempt was that of KGB defector and double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on a park bench in the United Kingdom.

In Russia, 39 Russian citizens, most of whom are business or government leaders, have died under suspicious circumstances after they criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin or his invasion of Ukraine. 

Feature Image: Ukrainian SBU agents, during the Battle of Kramatorsk, April 2014. (Screenshot capture via Graham Philipps Youtube)

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Steve Balestrieri