The Kremlin had lined up two candidates who could have led Ukraine if Russia managed to successfully capture Kyiv and overthrow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a report.

Russia initially planned to capture the capital city of Kyiv in days when it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. If Russia had succeeded, either Putin’s close friend Viktor Medvechuk or former President Viktor Yanukovych would have been the top candidates to replace Zelensky, Ukrainska Pravda reported, citing intelligence sources, as translated via Google Translate.

Viktor Medvechuk

The first option was Medvechuk, a Ukrainian businessman, who is also a pro-Russia politician and a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader is also the godfather of Medvechuk’s daughter. In addition, Medvechuk previously acted as the Kremlin’s primary agent of influence in Ukraine for years.

Medvechuk was arrested by Ukrainian authorities in April 2022 after he fled house arrest while awaiting trial on treason charges and attempts to steal natural resources from the Russia-annexed region of Crimea. Following his arrest, Ukrainian authorities also seized some of his wealth, most of which was obtained through energy deals with the Kremlin.

He was later handed over to Russia in a prisoner swap in exchange for more than 200 Ukrainian fighters, including members of the Azov Battalion known for their last-stand defense in Mariupol.

Viktor Yanukovych

After Medvechuk was arrested following his escape from house arrest, the Kremlin considered putting Ynukovuch in power if they succeeded in overthrowing the Ukrainian government.

Yakunovych previously served as the prime minister of Ukraine from 2002 to 2005 and 2006 to 2007 before being elected president in 2010. During his presidency, Yanukovych showed his pro-Russian leaning, even striking a deal with former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to extend Moscow’s lease of the port at Sevastopol in April 2010.

Yakunovych was ousted in 2014 after he enacted a series of anti-government protest measures that led to the death of as many as 100 people after police used snipers and live ammunition to respond to widespread demonstrations against the measures.

Yakunovych’s whereabouts are currently unknown. His plane was last seen in Belarus on March 7, 2022, days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

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