Polish man arrested in Russian plot to assassinate Volodymyr Zelensky

The plot centred around an airport in Poland through which Volodymyr Zelensky travels regularly
The plot centred around an airport in Poland through which Volodymyr Zelensky travels regularly - ALINA SMUTKO/REUTERS

Polish police have arrested a man suspected of aiding a Russian plot to assassinate Volodymyr Zelensky, targeting an airport the Ukrainian leader uses for overseas travel.

Prosecutors said the Polish citizen, identified only as “Pawel K” under local privacy laws, had been instructed by Russian handlers to observe security measures at Poland’s Rzeszow-Jasionka airport.

It is unclear whether the suspect passed on any sensitive information about the facility, which Mr Zelensky has repeatedly used to travel to meet foreign leaders since Ukrainian airports closed after the Russian invasion in 2022.

Prosecutors added that the arrest was made based on intelligence provided by Ukraine.

Russia is suspected of directing a number of failed assassination plots against Mr Zelensky in the hope that his death would strike a major blow to Kyiv’s morale.

Donald Tusk, the Polish president, said on Friday: “The would-be assassin of president Zelensky, a Pole acting in cooperation with the Russian intelligence agencies, was arrested two days ago.

“There will be no leniency for those who collaborate with the Russian intelligence services. We will eliminate any attempt to betray or destabilise,” he added. He had previously referred to the suspect as a “madman” in a statement on Thursday night.

Front line of Russian spying

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine has transformed Rzeszow’s airport from a sleepy airline backwater to a vital logistics hub for Western military support for Kyiv.

Now guarded by Patriot missiles, it lies just 70 kilometres from the Ukrainian border, meaning that equipment can be unloaded and in Ukraine within a matter of hours upon arrival.

Since war broke out in Ukraine, neighbouring Poland has found itself on the front line of Russian spying. Home to an expanding Nato force and the logistics hub for military support for Ukraine, the country is now locked in an escalating espionage war with the Russian intelligence services.

In March, the ABW, Poland’s internal security agency, conducted raids on a number of properties as part of an investigation into an alleged Russian spy ring.

Last year it rounded up some 16 suspected Russian spies who have been accused of planning sabotage attacks on key pieces of infrastructure, such as rail lines, critical for supporting Ukraine.

Polish authorities also arrested a number of foreign citizens last year for attempting to spy for Russia on the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport.

The latest incident comes after Germany arrested two suspects earlier this week in a separate case involving an alleged Russian plot to sabotage US military bases in the southern state of Bavaria.