The Kremlin ordered 400 Russian mercenaries in Kyiv to hunt and kill Ukraine's president, report says

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The Kremlin ordered 400 Russian mercenaries in Kyiv to hunt and kill Ukraine's president, report says
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seen in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 28, 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 28, 2022.Presidency of Ukraine / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Four hundred soldiers with Russia's Wagner Group are now in Ukraine, The Times of London reported.

  • The Kremlin offered soldiers bonuses to wipe out Volodymyr Zelenskyy's government, the report said.

  • Zelenskyy previously warned that he was the "number one target " for Russian assassins.

The Kremlin ordered hundreds of Russian mercenaries in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, The Times of London reported.

Between 2,000 and 4,000 mercenaries with the Wagner Group — a private army believed to be owned by the Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin — entered Ukraine through Belarus in January, The Times reported.

Some 400 of them were deployed to Kyiv, while others were sent to the pro-Kremlin regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the newspaper reported.

Zelenskyy's name tops the Wagner Group kill list of 23 senior Ukrainian figures that includes Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, The Times reported.

The Kremlin offered what The Times described as "hefty bonuses" to wipe out Zelenskyy's government. The exact amount of the bounty is unclear.

Ukrainian intelligence learned of the order on Saturday morning, and Kyiv subsequently declared a 36-hour "hard" curfew so that the city could be swept for Russian agents, the report said.

Zelenskyy said last Friday that he was the "number one target" for Russian assassins in Ukraine and that "enemy sabotage groups" had entered the capital.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday and began shelling major cities, but Moscow's forces have since faced spirited resistance from Ukrainians on the ground.

The US, UK, and EU announced harsh economic and logistical sanctions against Russian individuals and entities in the wake of the invasion.

In response, Putin ordered Russia's nuclear deterrent to be to high alert on Sunday, a move that the UK said was simply an attempt at distraction.

Ukraine said Sunday that it had agreed to hold talks with Russia at the Belarus border on Monday. The talks were ongoing at time of publication.

However, according to The Times, the Wagner Group mercenaries have been told that Putin does not intend to negotiate with Ukraine at all.

The meeting is just "smoke and mirrors," a source close to the group told The Times.

Zelenskyy also said in a Sunday video message: "I will say frankly, as always: I do not really believe in the result of this meeting, but let them try. So that no citizen of Ukraine would have any doubt that I, as president, did not try to stop the war when there was even a small chance."

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