Escape From Kiev: Navy SEALS, SAS Commandos Reportedly on Standby to Get Zelensky Out of Ukraine
12:36 GMT 06.03.2022 (Updated: 11:11 GMT 20.10.2022)
© AP Photo / Firdia LisnawatiIndonesian Special Forces soldiers, also known as Kopassus, take position during a joint anti-terrorism exercise with Australia's elite unit SAS at the Bali International Airport, in Kuta, Indonesia on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010
© AP Photo / Firdia Lisnawati
The Ukrainian president’s current whereabouts remain unknown. Last week, he reportedly told Washington that he needs “ammunition, not a ride,” and refused to evacuate. On Friday, Ukrainian opposition lawmaker Ilya Kiva alleged that the president fled the country and settled in the US Embassy in Warsaw. This information has not been verified.
An elite commando force consisting of 150 US Navy SEALS and over 70 British Special Air Service commandos are stationed at an base in Lithuania and planning an operation to evacuate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from Ukraine, The Sun reports, citing sources said to be familiar with the matter.
“The most likely sensible option could be to relocate Zelensky out of Kiev where he could be picked up. We have aircraft but the distance is critical,” one senior UK source told the tabloid.
Zelensky reportedly told US lawmakers in a Zoom call Saturday that they may not see him alive again during an appeal demanding more weapons and the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Most Western politicians have so far shied away from the latter idea, citing the dangers of an open military conflagration with Russia.
In a related development, the New York Times reported Saturday that the US and its allies had begun talks regarding a successor to Zelensky, accounting for the possibility of the Ukrainian president being captured or killed by Russian forces. This, officials from multiple governments told the outlet, would provide the West with a figurehead to recognize instead of any new Russian-backed government in Kiev.
On Friday, Opposition Platform – For Life! Rada lawmaker Ilya Kiva alleged that Zelensky had already fled Ukraine for Poland, and that he was “hiding in the US Embassy” in Warsaw. Ukrainian and US officials have not commented on this claim.
On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Ukraine’s current authorities’ actions, including alleged efforts to build a nuclear weapon, pose a grave threat to the country’s future. “People who do not understand this, especially among the current leadership, must understand that if they continue doing what they are doing, they will call into question the future of Ukrainian statehood. If this happens, it will be entirely on their conscience,” Putin said.
Russia began a military operation in Ukraine on 24 February after a request for assistance from its Donbass allies – who faced weeks of escalating Ukrainian artillery and mortar shelling, sniper attacks and sabotage raids. Putin characterized the operation as an effort to “demilitarize and denazify” the country, and called on the Ukrainian military to seize power from the current authorities. The US and its allies condemned the operation as an unprovoked “invasion” and slapped Moscow with tough new sanctions.