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In an interview with the British tabloid The Sun, he said that he’s survived "no fewer" than five or six attempts on his life since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, but that each subsequent attempt makes it less intimidating.
NBC News could not independently verify Zelenskyy’s claims about attempts on his life.
“The first one is very interesting, when it is the first time, and after that it is just like Covid,” Zelenskyy said. “First of all, people don’t know what to do with it and it’s looking very scary. And then after that, it is just intelligence sharing with you detail that one more group came to Ukraine to [attempt] this.”
Zelenskyy regularly moves around the country, visiting front lines and liberated cities, under strict security. In the capital, Kyiv, he works out of a high-security complex. In the early days of the war, he said he and his family were primary targets of Russia, but Ukraine has rarely publicly revealed any attempts on his life.
In August, Ukrainian authorities said they detained an informant who was sharing intelligence with Russia as part of a plot to assassinate Zelenskyy.
When Russia invaded Ukraine at the beginning of 2022, it was widely expected to overrun the country quickly. The initial success of the Ukrainian counterattack, and the failure of Russian forces to oust the democratically elected government in Kyiv, has given way to what his top general calls a stalemate.
Zelenskyy told the Sun that Russia still “wants very much” to topple him from power, and he claimed to even know the code name of its latest mission to oust him; its deadline, he said, is the end of the year.
“The name of operation is Maidan 3. It is meant to change the president,” he said. “Maybe it’s not by killing. I mean it’s changing. They will use any instruments they have.”
Maidan Nezalezhnosti, also known as just Maidan, is a square in the heart of Kyiv that has been the site of mass protests over the years. In 2014, a movement based there led to a bloody rebellion and the toppling of the country’s pro-Russian government, precipitating the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the war with Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east. Moscow has called the 2014 Maidan protests an illegal coup.
Zelenskyy, a former comedian, has become a symbol of Ukraine’s struggle against Russia. His signature military fatigues, stubble and daily video updates about the war have made him somewhat of a cult figure in the West. Many military observers credit his persistence in keeping the war in Ukraine and its military needs at the top of the international agenda for the country’s ability to stave off the Russian army, far more superior in manpower and fighting power, for this long.
But with the escalation of the Israeli-Hamas conflict, the war in Ukraine has been less prominent in international headlines, and Zelenskyy has tried to smooth over internal tensions with his top military commander, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, who has suggested earlier this month that the war has now reached a stalemate — something Zelenskyy has denied — as the much-touted counteroffensive has failed to bring about any major breakthroughs for Kyiv.
That has raised questions about just how long the war can continue, and whether Western military aid for Ukraine, including from Washington, will start drying up.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Monday in a signal that’s not the case, saying Ukraine’s fight is “a marathon — not a sprint” — and announced another $100 million aid package, providing additional artillery munitions, air defense capabilities and anti-tank weapons.
Speaking with the Sun, Zelenskyy said Ukrainians are fatigued by the war, but their will to fight Russia remains strong. “In the morale, there is no stalemate,” he said, according to the newspaper. “We are at our home. Russians are on our land. Therefore there is no stalemate in this.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com