Ukraine president Zelenskyy 'survived three assassination attempts in past week'

TOPSHOT - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv on March 3, 2022. - Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West on March 3, 2022, to increase military aid to Ukraine, saying Russia would advance on the rest of Europe otherwise.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy has survived three assassination attempts so far, it has been reported. (Getty)

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has survived three assassination attempts in a week, it has been reported.

The Ukrainian president previously said he is the "number one target" for Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine has entered its second week.

According to The Times, plots to "eliminate" Zelenskyy, 44, have come from two sets of mercenaries - the Kremlin-backed Wagner group and Chechen special forces.

The newspaper reported the Wagner group have been alarmed by how accurately Ukrainian forces have been able to anticipate their moves.

Plans from both groups have been thwarted after anti-war Russians gave intelligence to Ukrainian authorities, it is claimed.

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

TOPSHOT - A view of damaged building  following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 3, 2022. - Ukraine and Russia agreed to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians on March 3, in a second round of talks since Moscow invaded last week, negotiators on both sides said. (Photo by Sergey BOBOK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)
The invasion attempt has now entered its second week (Getty)

The Secretary of National Security and Defence told local journalists: “I can say that we have received information from [Russia’s Federal Security Service], who do not want to take part in this bloody war."

On Saturday a group from the Chechen attempted to kill Zelenskyy, but were "eliminated", a Ukrainian security official said in a televised address.

Zelenskyy has become one of the most well-known faces in the world after the Russian invasion, and refuses to leave Kyiv for safety as enemy forces encircle the city.

The US offered to airlift Zelenskyy out of Kyiv as the fighting intensifies, but he declined telling them, "I need ammunition, not a ride."

Putin expected an easy victory, but his forces have been met with fierce resistance from the Ukrainian people, causing his underprepared soldiers to suffer heavy losses and slow progression.

Russia has so far captured only one Ukrainian city – the southern Dnipro River port of Kherson, which its tanks entered on Wednesday.

Read more: Putin has ‘achieved in one week the exact opposite of what he wanted’, says former Finnish PM

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via teleconference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia on March 3, 2022. - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Moscow's advance in Ukraine is going
Putin expected an easy victory, but his forces have been met with fierce resistance from the Ukrainian people. (Getty)

On Thursday, Russia forces bombed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant - the largest one in Europe.

Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of "directly targeting" the station, adding it could have been "six times worse than Chornobyl."

He added: "This night could have been the end of history for Ukraine and Europe.

"Russian tank operators knew what they were shooting at, they directly targeted the station."

Boris Johnson accused Putin “directly threatening the safety of all of Europe” in the aftermath of the attack.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Russian army was “firing from all sides” on the plant.

“Fire has already broke out ... Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!,” he wrote on Twitter.

Zelenskyy made a personal appeal to Putin on Wednesday, telling him: "Get off our land. You don't want to leave now? Then sit down with me at the negotiation table. I'm available. Sit. Just not 30 metres away like with Macron or Scholz etc. I am your neighbour. You don't need to keep me 30 metres away.

"I don't bite. I'm a normal bloke. Sit down with me and talk. What are you afraid of? We aren't threatening anyone, we're not terrorists, we aren't seizing banks and seizing foreign land."

Watch: Ukraine nuclear power plant catches fire during bombardment from Russia

Ukrainian authorities have claimed that more than 9,000 Russian soldiers have died since the attack began, in numbers which it is been so far impossible to independently verify.

On Wednesday, Russia admitted for the first time admitted it had suffered heavy losses, saying in a statement 498 of its troops had died. The UK has the death toll will be “considerably higher” than figures released by the Kremlin.

Instead of a swift invasion, Putin is now personally responsible for over a million refugees who have fled Ukraine into their neighbouring European countries.

In his own country, thousands have also been arrested after staging protests in Russia - most notably in Moscow and Putin's own hometown of St Petersburg.

In other developments:

  • Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has said Russia is using cluster bombs in Ukraine. "We have seen the use of cluster bombs and we have seen reports of use of other types of weapons which would be in violation of international law," he told reporters in Brussels. Stoltenberg further warned that "the worst is yet to come" in the conflict.

  • Ukraine's demands for a no-fly zone were once again rejected by Nato allies, citing fears the move could spiral into all-out war between Russia and the West. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that if allies wouldn't meet his request to protect his nation's air space, they should instead provide Kyiv with more war planes.

  • A huge fire was put out at a nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine after it was seized by Russian forces. No damage was done to reactors at the Zaporozhzhia plant after a projectile hit a nearby building, UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi said. Boris Johnson accused Putin of “directly threatening the safety of all of Europe” after the attack on the plant.

  • Russia's parliament passed a low imposing jail sentences of up to 15 years for people who spread "fake information" about the country's armed forces. The laws give the Russian state enhanced powers to crack down on dissenters. Russia's communications watchdog also restricted access to several foreign news organisations' websites, including the BBC and Deutsche Welle.