Ukrainian security officials said Monday they had arrested a Ukrainian woman on charges of helping Russia’s intelligence services, saying she was caught “red-handed” helping to prepare for an assassination attempt on President Volodymyr Zelensky last month.
“The security service detained an informant of the special services of the Russian Federation, who, on the eve of the recent working trip of the president of Ukraine to the Mykolaiv region, was gathering intelligence about the planned visit,” Ukraine’s State Security Service, the SBU, said in a statement posted on its website.
“The perpetrator tried to establish the time and list of locations of the approximate route of the head of state,” the statement said.
Zelensky has made semi-regular, unannounced visits to formerly occupied territories or areas near the frontline — visits that require extreme caution due to the possibility of targeted Russian attacks. He visited the southern Ukrainian regions of Odessa and Mykolaiv at the end of July.
The statement said the suspected Russian informant was “a former saleswoman in a military store on the territory of one of the military units” in the town of Ochakiv, which Zelensky visited.
A Ukrainian government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said that the woman was detained on Aug. 1. Her identity has not been revealed.
The government official said Ukrainian security services prevented the woman from collecting information about Zelensky’s visit and foiled the assassination plot.
The SBU “took comprehensive measures to keep her from the visit, and she did not have any information about where [Zelensky] would go, how he would get there,” the official said, without going into further detail. “And on the day of the visit, she [was] also restricted in her movements.”
After Zelensky’s visit, the security services continued to follow the woman. The SBU said that Russian intelligence services then tasked her with identifying “the location of electronic warfare systems and warehouses with ammunition of the armed forces of Ukraine in the Ochakiv region,” which would be used “to prepare a new massive airstrike on the Mykolaiv region,” the SBU statement said.
“To gather intelligence, she travelled around the territory of the district and photographed the locations of Ukrainian objects,” the statement said. If found guilty, the woman could face 12 years in prison, the SBU said.
The announcement of the arrest came a day after officials from dozens of countries wrapped up talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia aimed at discussing a peace plan in Ukraine. On Sunday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak said the meeting was “very productive” despite varying points of view.
Russia was not invited to the talks, and they were dismissed by deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov as “doomed to failure.” Attendees included an envoy from China, which had not attended prior talks in Denmark.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that Beijing will maintain an “independent and impartial” stance on the Ukraine war while maintaining “close strategic coordination” with Russia in international affairs, according to a readout from the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday.
Meanwhile, attacks continued across Ukraine, including two separate strikes Monday on a residential building in the eastern city of Pokrovsk. At least four civilians and a state emergency service official were killed and more than a dozen were injured, according to Ukraine’s interior ministry.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the regional governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, said that an air defence system had downed a Ukrainian drone near the city on Monday.
Drone strikes on Russian targets have increased in recent weeks. On Friday, Ukraine used sea drones to attack a Russian naval base, a Ukrainian government official said; the next day, a sea drone hit a Russian oil tanker near occupied Crimea. After an attack on Moscow last week, Zelensky called the war “returning” to Russia “an inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process.”
Yermak said Monday that Russia had returned 22 soldiers to Ukraine in a prisoner exchange. Such swaps have occurred throughout the war. Photos showed the men dressed in military uniforms and draped in Ukrainian flags.
Source: Washington post