UK says Moscow is plotting to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine – The Mercury News

KYIV, Ukraine – The British government said on Saturday that the Kremlin was developing plans to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine – and had selected a potential candidate – as Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in. whether to order Russian forces to concentrate on the Ukrainian border. attack.

The highly unusual public statement by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, issued late at night in London, comes at a pivotal moment in diplomacy between the Kremlin and the West. According to US officials, Russia has deployed more than 100,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, which could strike at any time.

“The information released today sheds light on the extent of Russia’s activity to overthrow Ukraine and is an insight into the thinking of the Kremlin,” Liz Truss, the UK foreign secretary, said in a statement. “Russia must de-escalate, end its aggressive and disinformation campaigns, and pursue a diplomatic path.”

The British statement is the second time in more than a week that a Western power has publicly accused Russia of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs, showing genuine concern about Moscow’s intentions and efforts to coordinate efforts. to put pressure on Putin to de-escalate. The United States also accused the Kremlin of sending saboteurs into eastern Ukraine to create a provocation that could serve as a pretext for an invasion.

Saturday’s statement provided some details on how Russia might proceed to impose a new government on Ukraine and did not say whether those plans were contingent on a Russian military invasion. The purpose of both was to initiate such schemes, as well as to make Putin aware that the plot had been exposed, British officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

In Washington, officials said they believed British intelligence was accurate. Two officials said it was obtained by British intelligence services. In the informal intelligence alliance known as the “Five Eyes”, the UK has the primary responsibility for intercepting Russian communications, which is why it plays such an important role in exposing the Russians. Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In a statement, Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council, said, “This type of conspiracy is very disturbing. The Ukrainian people have the right to determine their own future, and we stand with our democratically elected partners in Ukraine.”

But the Russian Foreign Ministry denied the British allegation.

“The UK Foreign Office’s spread of disinformation is yet another evidence that NATO countries, led by Anglo Saxon, are escalating tensions around Ukraine,” it said in a statement. “We call on the UK foreign office to cease its dissemination activities.”

Ukraine is in a state of extreme anxiety. In recent weeks, several reports have surfaced about plots and schemes aimed at destabilizing the government and sending the country to war.

In addition to warnings about Russian warming from the US and UK, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency recently reported that Russia had sent hundreds of mercenaries into two rebel regions in eastern Ukraine, and in November Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian intelligence had discovered a man backed by Russia. coup plot involving a famous Ukrainian financier.

At a security conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, the participants, most of them senior members of the Ukrainian political opposition, hinted at the columnists. fifth and enemy collaborators.

“We’re not just talking about large-scale aggression by Russia,” said Pavlo Klimkin, a former foreign minister. “We are talking about the desire of Russian officials, including Putin, to destroy Ukraine like that.”

The British statement provided no evidence to confirm that Russia was plotting to overthrow the Ukrainian government. The statement also named four other Ukrainians, accusing them of maintaining ties with Russian intelligence agencies, including Russian intelligence officers involved in the planning to attack Ukraine.

Of the five Ukrainians named, four fled Ukraine for Russia in 2014 after a popular uprising toppled the Russian-backed government in Kyiv and sparked a separatist war in eastern Ukraine. continues to this day.

According to British assessment, Russian planners are considering installing a former member of Ukraine’s parliament named Yevgeniy Murayev to lead a pro-Kremlin puppet government in Kyiv. Once a member of the Russia-backed Party of Regions, Murayev is now the head of a political party called Nashi, part of a group of opposition parties opposed to Ukraine’s pro-Western parties. In September, a large banner with his photo was hung on the facade of the Union of Trade Unions building on Kyiv’s Independence Square with the slogan “This is our land”.

In a recent Facebook post, he accused the current government in Kyiv of selling out the US, which he said was inciting war hysteria to gain financial rewards from arms sales.

“The hawks are looking forward to a feast,” he wrote.

It is unclear from the British statement whether Russia informed Murayev that he was seen as a possible future leader of Ukraine. But after a journalist for a UK newspaper tipped him off about the revelations, he posted a picture of himself on Facebook as James Bond with the caption “More details tomorrow.”

Russian spies maintain extensive spy networks in Ukraine, and contacts between Ukrainian officials and intelligence officers are not uncommon, according to Ukrainian and Western security officials. Ukrainian and Western security.

All four other Ukrainians named in this release have held senior positions in the Ukrainian government and worked closely with Paul Manafort, US President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, when he was in office. political advisor to the former Russian-backed president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. After Yanukovych’s government fell in 2014, they fled to Russia.

One of those named, Vladimir Sivkovich, was among four Ukrainians targeted by the US Treasury Department last week for their ties to Russia’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine. If the British assessment is correct, this would not be the first time the Kremlin has attempted to install a pro-Russian leader or interfere in the Ukrainian government. In 2004, Russia’s attempts to cheat a presidential election set off the so-called Orange Revolution, forcing the election to be replayed leading to the defeat of Yanukovych, the Kremlin’s nominee. bias.

In 2013, when the Kremlin pressured Yanukovych, who was eventually elected president, to withdraw from a trade pact with the European Union, Ukrainians took to the streets again. Yanukovych was eventually ousted from power, prompting Putin to order the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and incite a separatist war in eastern Ukraine.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied any intention of launching an attack against Ukraine, dismissing accusations as “hysteria” and making claims without providing evidence that the Kyiv government is seeking to escalate. stress ladder. Despite this, Russia’s military build-up on the border continues. Ukraine’s military intelligence service says at least 127,000 troops are currently besieging Ukraine to the north, east and west, with additional troops from Russia’s Eastern Military District now pouring into neighboring Belarus. The stalemate is the tension of an old-fashioned Cold War confrontation between Moscow and the West, with both sides accusing the act of warming and joking for geopolitical advantage. Although the confrontational tone was muted when Foreign Minister Antony Blinken met his Russian counterpart in the latest round of talks in Geneva on Friday, there was no end in sight.

Britain’s unusual revelation comes at a time when the country is trying to assert itself in a crisis on the military and diplomatic fronts. It delivered shipments of anti-tank weapons to the Ukrainian military, sent its senior ministers to NATO countries threatened by Russia, and began to engage directly with Russia.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has accepted an invitation from his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, to meet in Moscow, while Foreign Secretary Truss may meet Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

The revelation also comes amid a political scandal swirling around Downing Street garden parties in 2020 that breached lockdown restrictions, which have grown to the point of threatening the Prime Minister’s job. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took power.

Critics have suggested that Johnson may be trying to exploit tensions with Russia – and Britain’s more assertive military and diplomatic role – as a way to deflect attention from his political woes . New York Times. UK says Moscow is plotting to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine – The Mercury News

Huynh Nguyen

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