CIA director warned Zelensky of assassination threat at secret meeting before Russia invasion, book claims

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency travelled to Kyiv before the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine in order to inform Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of a Russian plan to assassinate him.

In his forthcoming book, The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden's White House, author Chris Whipple reports that at the same time Mr Zelensky was publicly dismissive of warnings from US officials that Moscow would soon launch the largest land invasion since the end of the Second World War, he was getting a clandestine briefing from CIA Director Bill Burns about the threat on his life.

Mr Zelensky’s attitude towards the US warnings, which were quite unusual because American officials rarely share intelligence publicly in the way the Biden administration began routinely disclosing Russian plans to reporters and foreign governments, was to push back on them and suggest the US was risking panic and negative effects on the Ukrainian economy.

But in a copy of his book obtained by The Independent, Mr Whipple said Mr Burns went to Kyiv “to give him a reality check”.

He said Mr Biden tasked the CIA director — a former US Ambassador to Russia — with providing Mr Zelensky with “precise details of the Russian plots”.

"This immediately got Zelensky's attention; he was taken aback, sobered by this news,” he wrote.

Ukrainian officials say Mr Zelensky has survived more than 12 separate attempts on his life by Russian forces since the war began last February.

According to Mr Whipple, at least two of those success stories were thanks to US intelligence shared by Mr Burns during that visit to Kyiv.

"The intelligence was so detailed that it would help Zelensky's security forces thwart two separate Russian attempts on his life," he wrote.