US and European officials have been discussing how the West would support a government-in-exile helmed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should he have to flee Kyiv, western officials tell CNN.
The discussions have ranged from supporting Zelensky and top Ukrainian officials in a potential move to Lviv in western Ukraine, to the possibility that Zelensky and his aides are forced to flee Ukraine altogether and establish a new government in Poland, the officials said.
The discussions are only preliminary and no decisions have been made, the sources said.
Western officials have also been wary of discussing 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 boosting Ukraine in its fight against Russia, two western diplomats explained. They added that there have been discussions about sending one or more members of Zelensky’s government to an external location where a government could be set up in case Kyiv falls and Zelensky is unwilling or unable to get out.
“The Ukrainians have plans in place that I’m not going to talk about or get into any detail about to make sure that there is continuity of government one way or another, and I’m going to leave it at that,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS on Sunday.
US and European officials believed in the earlier days of the war that Zelensky moving to Lviv might be feasible because it was not clear whether Russia would target western Ukraine. But now—given Russia’s dramatic escalation over the last several days against civilian targets across Ukraine—they are not as sure that Russia will spare any inch of Ukrainian territory.
Read More: US and Europe weigh plans for Ukrainian government in exile