According to Chris Whipple’s forthcoming book “The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House,” CIA Director Bill Burns made a secret trip to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy just before the Russian invasion last year. The purpose of this meeting was to reveal to Zelenskyy some alarming news – the Russians were plotting to assassinate him.
This revelation came at a time when Zelenskyy was dismissing the idea that Russia would carry out an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and suggesting that America’s public warnings were creating a “panic,” as reported in the book. It was unusual for the US to publicly disclose intelligence like this, which suggests that Washington was confident in its assessment of Russia’s intentions. However, just weeks before Russia invaded, Zelenskyy expressed concerns that such warnings would have a negative impact on the Ukrainian economy and emphasized that Kyiv was used to facing threats from Russia.
According to the book, Burns had come to Kyiv to give Zelenskyy a reality check and shared that Russian Special Forces were coming for him. President Joe Biden reportedly instructed Burns to share precise details of the Russian plots with Zelenskyy. This news reportedly startled Zelenskyy and made him take the warnings more seriously. Whipple writes in his book that “this immediately got Zelensky’s attention; he was taken aback, sobered by this news.”
As we know, Russia invaded Ukraine the next month, launching the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II. Since that time, Ukrainian officials have spoken about Zelenskyy surviving more than a dozen Russian assassination attempts. But Whipple’s book gives readers a glimpse of how the stakes were laid out to Zelenskyy as he tried to push back on US warnings about an impending invasion. According to Whipple, the intelligence shared by Burns was so detailed that it helped Zelenskyy’s security forces thwart two separate Russian attempts on his life.
Furthermore, the book also states that Burns shared a “blueprint of Putin’s invasion plan” during the meeting in Zelenskyy’s office to help him prepare. This blueprint reportedly previewed Russian plans to attack Antonov Airport north of Kyiv and use it as a staging area for an assault on Kyiv.
It is worth noting that most of the interviews for Whipple’s book were on “deep background,” which means that he could use the information but agreed not to quote sources directly without permission.
The US 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 war began, and the US has continued to provide Ukraine with vital intelligence to aid its forces on the battlefield. This secret meeting between Burns and Zelenskyy, as revealed in Whipple’s book, gives a new perspective on how the US has been supporting Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion.