The UK’s Telegraph newspaper is reporting comments from Ukraine’s president Zelensky that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be assassinated in the coming months.
“There will certainly be a moment when the fragility of Putin’s regime is felt in Russia,” Volodymyr Zelensky told journalist Dmytro Komarov in a documentary.
“Then carnivores will eat a carnivore. It is very important, and they will need a reason to justify this. They will remember. They will find a reason to kill a killer.”
Zelensky would not speculate as to the timing, or if he was in possession of information from “insiders” but said it would be successful, “Will it work? Yes. When? I don’t know.”
Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of Russia’s parliament the Duma who is now living in exhile, had no such hesitation. In January he told Newsweek that Putin would be killed before having a chance to celebrate his 71st birthday on October 7.
“Putin’s power is great, he is an invincible man,” he told the prestigious American weekly. “2022 was the year that this position began to fade. My prediction still stands that he will not see his next birthday.”
Doing away with him would be his associates’ only option, he noted, because they would fear simply arresting him to be stood on trial at the International Criminal Court.
“My personal dream is, of course, to see him in The Hague, but I don’t think he will succeed,” he said. “Those around him will not allow him to go to The Hague, because his testimony could actually harm them greatly. He will be killed.”
US officials have stated that Putin has a very small inner circle, possibly just four people, according to CIA director William Burns speaking Sunday on CBS Face the Nation. Other observers say that small circle is created when someone doesn’t trust the vast majority of their administrative staff or own generals.
Ponomarev served in the Duma from 2007 to 2016. He was the only MP who voted against Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. He later fled to Ukraine and was reported by Newsweek in October to be involved with the volunteer Freedom of Russia Legion in Kyiv’s armed forces.
Consisting of native Russians fighting against their former homeland, the group, which was then only two units strong, had the hope of one day being able to “destroy the Putin regime and establish a new, free country in Russia,” as one of its leaders said.
Ponomarev also initiated a “Congress of People’s Deputies of Russia” in Poland with several dozen other anti-regime former politicians, which he hopes will take the Duma’s place in a post-Putin government. There is also a rival “Congress of Free Russia” in Vilnius, Lithuania, established by other Putin foes who do not trust Ponomarev.
There may also be a natural end to Putin’s push for hegemony over his southern neighbor, as rumors of his ill health have repeatedly surfaced in the world’s media since the war began. Hypotheses ranging from various kinds of cancers to Parkinson’s to a schizoaffective disorder have all been reported, with heavy steroid treatment being a reason given for the now-puffy look of the Russian president’s features.
Zelensky himself has survived at least a dozen attempts on his life from armed groups planning or attempting to infiltrate the government compound in Kyiv since the beginning of the war, according to a local media outlet’s September interview with the head of his Prime Minister’s Office.
These occurred both before and after former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett received personal assurances from Putin last April that Zelensky would not be personally targeted.