Polish man charged in connection with alleged Russian plot to kill Ukraine leader Zelensky

Daria Tarasova-Markina, Antonia Mortensen, Christian Stern, Anna Chernova and Mariya Knight, CNN

A Polish man has been charged over claims he assisted an alleged Russian plot to assassinate Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to authorities in Poland and Ukraine.

He was charged with “readiness to act for foreign intelligence against the Republic of Poland,” an offense which carries up to eight years in prison if he is found guilty, according to prosecutors.

Polish authorities allege the man, named as Paweł K, was tasked “to help, among other things, in planning by Russian special services a possible attack on the life of the head of a foreign state – President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky,” according to a statement on Thursday.

Prosecutors said the man agreed to provide information to Russian spies about security at Rzeszów-Jasionka airport, in southeastern Poland, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine.

Zelensky is known to use the airport when leaving on foreign trips, as it is one of the closest airports to the Ukrainian border. The airport often receives military aid and civilian goods from the US and across Europe because Ukraine’s airspace remains closed to non-military flights.

Ukrainian authorities said they uncovered the plot and handed key evidence to Polish officials, who then detained the accused on Polish territory.

Polish prosecutors said the man had contacted Russians “directly involved in the war in Ukraine,” though it was not clear from official statements whether he had handed over any information, or even collected it.

It is not the first time Ukraine has claimed to have foiled an attempt to kill President Zelensky, who has become a figurehead of his country’s war effort and been energetic in rallying Western support.

He has faced several known attempts on his life since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

In August 2023, the Ukrainian Security Service, the SBU, arrested a woman who had been allegedly “gathering intelligence” about a planned visit by the president to the southern region of Mykolaiv, in order to help plan a Russian airstrike.

News of the Polish arrest came just hours after German police said they had arrested two suspected Russian agents in the Bavarian town of Bayreuth.

The two individuals, identified as German-Russian nationals, are accused of plotting sabotage attacks and planning an explosive detonation, according to a statement by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office in Karlsruhe.

One of the men had been in contact with a Russian intelligence agent, the statement said, adding that among the potential targets scouted were US army facilities in Germany.

“Our security authorities have prevented possible explosive detonations that were intended to affect and undermine our military aid to Ukraine. This is a particularly serious case of suspected agent activity for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s criminal regime,” Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser said during a press conference in Berlin.

The Russian Embassy in Berlin dismissed the accusations as an “outright provocation,” Russian state news agency TASS reported

Header image caption: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Poland, December 22, 2022. Jakub Szymczuk/KPRP/Handout via Reuters.

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