An elite special forces unit sent by Russian leader Vladimir Putin to assassinate Ukraine’s charismatic president Volodymyr Zelensky was “destroyed” by Ukrainian forces following a tip-off from Russia’s own security services.
Speaking on Ukraine’s rolling news TV channel "Ukraine 24,” Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, claimed that officials had been informed by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) that a kill team from the feared Chechen Kadyrovtsy group had been sent to Kyiv.
He repeated the claim in a Telegram post on Tuesday, saying: “We are well aware of the special operation that was to take place directly by the Kadyrovites to eliminate our president".
“And," he added, "I can say that we have received information from the FSB, who today do not want to take part in this bloody war.
"And thanks to this,” he added, “I can say that Kadyrov’s elite group was destroyed directly, which came here to eliminate our president”.
The Kadyrovtsy, or Kadyrovites, are a ruthless armed militia that originally came to prominence fighting for Chechnya against Russia in the early 1990s.
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When their leader, Chechen warlord Akhmad Kadyrov, defected to Russia most of his followers went with him.
An exact figure for the size of Kadyrov’s is hard to come by, with estimates ranging from 10,000 to 80,000.
By 2006 the group had become a semi-formal unit of the Russian army, undertaking deadly missions in Syria as well as their native Chechnya.
While operating under Russian orders they are also seen as the “private army” of Ramzan Kadyrov, who took over as leader following his father’s death in the 2004 Grozny stadium bombing.
Kadyrov has been branded a “war criminal’ by human rights groups over the Kadyrovites’ ruthless actions.
The group has been implicated in dozens of cases of kidnap, torture, rape, and murder. In one particularly bloodthirsty example, members of Kadyrov's personal guard killed a Chechen guerrilla, beheaded him and mounted his head on a metal pipe, recording the brutal scene on video.
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Former Chechen Prime Minister Beslan Gantamirov has accused the group of "abductions and murder even of the FSB employees," saying they are responsible for "gangsterism in the territory of all the North Caucasus".
The Kadyrovtsy detachment sent into Ukraine over the weekend was intercepted after Ukrainian forces received the tip-off and was “destroyed near the town of Gostomel just north-west of Kyiv.
Russian forces continue to make slow but steady progress in their invasion of Ukraine. A disputed report says they have managed to take the Black Sea city of Kherson in southern Ukraine.
But US President Joe Biden has warned of dire consequences for Putin.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Mr Biden strayed from the prepared script to say: “While [Putin] may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run.
“He has no idea what’s coming.”
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