More than 400 Russian-paid mercenaries have infiltrated Kyiv focused on killing Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, The Times of London reported.
A private militia named the Wagner Group — run by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest allies — flew in mercenaries from Africa five weeks ago on a mission to assassinate Zelenskyy and other government officials.
The mercenaries, who would receive handsome financial bonuses, also were to prepare the ground for the Russians to take control.
Kyiv declared a 36-hour "hard" curfew — from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. — to sweep the city for Russian saboteurs after the mercenaries' mission reached the Ukrainian government on Saturday, the Times reported.
Civilians were warned not to go outside because they would be seen as Russian agents and risked being "liquidated."
"All civilians who will be on the street during the curfew will be considered members of the enemy's sabotage and reconnaissance groups," Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko tweeted on Saturday. "Please treat the situation with understanding and do not go outside."
In December, the European Union moved to sanction the Wagner Group and its associates for serious human rights abuses, including torture and arbitrary executions.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the time tweeted: "The United States welcomes @EUCouncil actions today to sanction Wagner Group and its associates. We applaud the European Union for its commitment to promoting respect for human rights around the world, as well as upholding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine."
Former U.S. intelligence officials told Fox News that the mercenaries likely had been in Kyiv for a while and provided Putin with pre-invasion intelligence.
One official told Fox News that deploying mercenaries to assassinate Zelenskyy gives Putin an opportunity to claim he was not involved with their actions.
Another U.S. official told Fox News that having the Wagner Group carry out killings, perhaps by using a nerve agent or something non-traceable, could be Moscow's tactic because "something not attributable is an option Putin would want to have."
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