Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky held the ground and once again refused to be evacuated from Kyiv as Russian assassination squad parachuted into the capital and entered a building to kill him, a news report has claimed.
According to an account of the crisis given by presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych, Mr Zelensky was urged to leave and go to a secure facility away from Kyiv. The Ukrainian president also made a secret visit to the front line, according to the account.
Both British and US forces offered to evacuate Mr Zelensky and allow him to set up a government in exile, probably in Poland, but he never seriously thought about it.
Advisers warned him that the compound was at risk from sniper fire and grenades hurled from nearby buildings.
Mr Zelensky and a dozen of his aides were given bulletproof vests and assault rifles, but some didn’t know how to use them.
Mr Arestovych said: “It was an absolute madhouse. Automatics for everyone.
“The place was wide open. We didn’t even have concrete blocks to close the street.”
He said the president’s wife and children were also still there as the Russians descended.
Mr Zelensky would not leave, and on the second night, he went outside to record a video to show the Ukrainian people he had not fled.
The Ukrainian president himself told TIME: “You understand that they’re watching. You’re a symbol. You need to act the way the head of state must act.”
The Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24.
At the start of the invasion, those inside defended themselves with automatic weapons and erected defences as the Russians twice tried to storm them at night.
A back gate was blocked with only plywood boards and police barricades.
According to the details shared in the account, in the early days of the invasion Mr Zelensky would get up before dawn and have his first meeting with his top general at 5am.
As the war progressed Mr Zelensky and aides would watch drone strikes on computer screens and cheer as Russian tanks were destroyed.
Mr Arestovych said bodyguards were “losing their minds” at the risk involved, and many of Mr Zelensky’s team only found out months later that he had done it.
On another trip to the front line a few days later he ate soup within the range of Russian snipers and artillery.
Another adviser told the magazine that Mr Zelensky was his own “main” speechwriter.