Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said Ukraine has a contingency plan in place in the event that the Ukrainian government no longer has President Volodymyr Zelensky at the helm as Russia continues to intensify its invasion of the country.
During an interview on CBS, Blinken praised Zelensky for staying in Ukraine even as the Ukrainian president repeatedly warns that these may be his final days. Zelensky has reportedly survived at least three precision assassination attempts by elite Russian hit squads thus far as he continues to hide out in various underground bunkers in Kyiv.
Blinken assured viewers that Ukraine has a plan to keep their government running regardless of what happens to Zelensky.
“The Ukrainians have plans in place that I’m not going to talk about or get into any details on to make sure that there is what we would call continuity of government one way or another,” Blinken said. “And let me leave it at that.”
Blinken’s remarks come as U.S. and European officials have reportedly been in talks about plans for a Ukrainian government in exile if Zelensky and his aides are forced to flee Ukraine altogether, according to CNN.
Discussions have reportedly ranged from Western allies supporting the Ukrainian president and top Ukrainian officials in a potential move to Lviv in western Ukraine, to Zelensky and his aides potentially fleeing the country and setting up a new government in Poland.
However, the discussions are reportedly preliminary and no final decisions have been made, according to CNN.
Two Western diplomats told CNN that Western officials have held back on discussing a government in exile with Zelensky, who wants to stay in Kyiv and has rebuffed conversations that do not involve boosting Ukraine as the country defends itself against Russian troops. The diplomats reportedly said that one idea under consideration is sending one or more members of Zelensky’s government to an external location where a government could be set up in case Kyiv falls to Russian forces and Zelensky refuses to, or is unwilling, to flee.
In the past week, Russia has continued to escalate its invasion of Ukraine by targeting civilians across the country, prompting more uncertainty among U.S. and European officials that any area of Ukrainian territory will be spared. Russia’s escalation prompted a bipartisan group of lawmakers to call on the International Criminal Court to immediately prosecute Russian President Vladimir Putin “should anything happen” to Zelensky.
On Saturday, Zelensky urged more than 300 members of Congress to ban the importation of Russian oil and to send more jets to his country during a virtual meeting. During a visit to Moldova on Sunday, Blinken said that the U.S. is looking into ways for Poland to supply some of its Soviet-era combat jets to Ukraine.
“We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland may provide to Ukraine and looking at how we might be able to backfill, should Poland decide to supply those planes,” Blinken said. “I can’t speak to a timeline, but I can just say we’re looking at it very, very actively.”
Watch Blinken’s remarks below: