What will happen in Ukraine if President Zelensky is assassinated?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had spoken out about Ukraine’s protocol should he be assassinated, according to media reports on Tuesday.

Under Ukraine’s constitution, the transition would default Ukraine’s president, who would assume responsibility for the role.

When the president is unable to perform his duties, the speaker of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) takes over his responsibilities,” said Mykola Knyazhytsky, an opposition lawmaker from the western city of Lviv, according to Politico. “Therefore there would be no power vacuum.”

However, the source reported that not all Ukrainians may be so supportive of such a backup plan, as President Ruslan Stefanchuk only has a 40% trust rating in opinion polls.

So, in the circumstances that Zelensky is assassinated, the Ukrainian government will likely be led by Stefanchuk as a figurehead, the head of the president’s office Andrii Yermak, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Hiroshima, western Japan, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (Credit: Louise Delmotte/Pool via REUTERS)

Assassination attempt against President Zelensky

Assassination attempts against Zelensky have increased rapidly over the course of the war, Zelensky adviser Mikhail Podolyak said in March 2022, according to Politico. As Jerusalem Post reported at the time, one week in March three attempts were made on Zelensky’s life by Wagner forces.

In March, after two Ukrainian-allied anti-Putin individuals invaded two Russian villages in the Bryansk Oblast region, calls for the assassination of the Ukrainian president rose dramatically. Lawmaker Mikhail Delyagin said the “only normal response” to the incident is the “immediate elimination of Zelensky,” according to Politico.

“If I thought about it constantly, I would just shut myself down, much like Putin now, who won’t leave his bunker,” Zelensky said in an interview in July. “Of course, my bodyguards have to think about how they can prevent that from happening, and that is their job. I don’t think about it.”

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