CIA Director Bill Burns met Zelenskyy on a secret trip before the Russian invasion last year.
Burns warned Zelenskyy of Russian assassination plots at a time when Zelenskyy questioned American intelligence.
Details of the Kyiv meeting are laid out in Chris Whipple’s upcoming book on Joe Biden’s White House.
CIA Director Bill Burns met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a secret trip to Kyiv before the Russian invasion last year to share news that seemed to surprise the Ukrainian leader: Russians were plotting to kill him. ‘murder.
Around that time, in January 2022, Zelenskyy dismissed the idea that the Russians would carry out an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and suggested that public US warnings were creating “panic”, Chris Whipple noted in his forthcoming book, “The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House.”
It was unusual for the United States to publicly release intelligence like this, suggesting that Washington was confident in its assessment of Russia’s intentions. But just weeks before the invasion of Russia, Zelenskyy expressed concern that such warnings would have a negative impact on Ukraine’s economy – and stressed that Kyiv was used to dealing with threats from Russia.
“Burns had come to give him a glimpse of reality” and the CIA director shared that Russian special forces were coming for Zelenskyy, writes Whipple, adding that President Joe Biden had told Burns “to share specific details on the Russian conspiracies.
“It immediately caught Zelensky’s attention; he was surprised, sobered by this news,” Whipple wrote in the book, which is slated for release Jan. 17.
Russia invaded Ukraine the following month, sparking the biggest military conflict in Europe since World War II. Since then, Ukrainian officials have spoken of Zelenskyy surviving more than a dozen Russian assassination attempts. But Whipple, who interviewed Burns, gives readers insight into how the stakes were laid out for Zelenskyy as he tried to fend off American warnings of an impending invasion.
“The intelligence was so detailed that it would help Zelensky’s security forces thwart two separate Russian attempts on his life,” he wrote.
As previously reported, Burns also shared a “blueprint of Putin’s invasion plan” during this visit to Zelenskyy’s office to help him prepare. Whipple wrote. He warned of Russian plans to attack Antonov Airport north of Kyiv and use it as a staging area for an assault on Kyiv.
Whipple wrote that most of the interviews for his book were on “deep holdings”, which meant he could use the information, but he agreed not to quote sources directly without permission.
The United States has been a key partner for Ukraine throughout Russia’s unprovoked invasion, which began in February 2022. Kyiv has received billions of dollars in security assistance from Washington since the outbreak of the war, and the United States continued to provide Ukraine with vital intelligence to aid its forces on the battlefield.
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