The United States and Europe assess the plans of the Ukrainian government in exile

Discussions ranged from the support of Zelensky and senior Ukrainian officials in a possible move to Lviv in western Ukraine to the possibility that Zelensky and his associates would be forced to flee Ukraine altogether and establish a new government in Poland, officials said.

Discussions are only preliminary and no decision has been made, the sources said.

Western officials have also been reluctant to discuss a government-in-exile directly with Zelensky because he wants to stay in Kyiv and has so far rejected conversations that focus on anything other than bolstering Ukraine in its fight against Russia, said two Western diplomats. They added that there had been talks of sending one or more members of Zelensky’s government to an outside location where a government could be set up in case Kyiv fell and Zelensky was unwilling or unwilling. could not come out.
“The Ukrainians have plans in place that I’m not going to talk about or go into in detail to make sure there’s continuity of government one way or another, and I’ll leave it at that,” said the Secretary of State. State Antony Blinken told CBS on Sunday.

American and European officials believed in the early days of the war that moving Zelensky to Lviv might be feasible as it was unclear whether Russia would target western Ukraine. But now – given Russia’s dramatic escalation over the past few days against civilian targets across Ukraine – they’re not so sure Russia will spare an inch of Ukrainian territory.

“All the signs are that [Putin] going to continue,” a senior Western intelligence official said on Friday. only figuratively, to make sure they can proceed” to take over the whole country.

One idea that has been floated, but remains unlikely, is the possibility of NATO establishing a no-fly zone over a small swathe of western Ukraine, Western officials and U.S. lawmakers have told Reuters. flow of discussions. This would in theory provide a perch for Zelensky’s government and allow Ukraine to build and hone an insurgency against Russian forces – which the intelligence official said would not require Kiev to stay on its feet.

“The signs are that [the Ukrainians] can support even conventional combat without centralized command and control from the Capitol,” the official said.

But the sources acknowledged that NATO establishing a no-fly zone over western Ukraine is highly unlikely for the same reasons it refused to impose a no-fly zone over the whole of Ukraine. country – because that would probably mean direct engagement with the Russian military. .

If there was an attempt to shut down parts of Ukrainian airspace, it is more likely to be coordinated by a “coalition of the willing”, rather than NATO as a bloc, the official said. one of the sources. Similarly, the West’s willingness to fund and support a Ukrainian insurgency varies among NATO member states, the sources said, with some more reluctant than others given the risk of Russian retaliation.

US and European officials told Zelensky they were ready to help him evacuate Ukraine, CNN previously reported. But he has so far refused.

Mary I. Bruner