By Ben Wolfgang
January 23, 2022
-The Washington Times
Moscow plans to force out Ukraine‘s political leaders and install a pro-Russian figure atop the government in Kyiv, Britain’s Foreign Office alleged Saturday, naming Ukrainian former lawmaker Yevhen Murayev as a top candidate for the job.
The Kremlin vehemently denied the charges, which come as U.S. military aid arrives in Ukraine amid growing fears that Russia is on the cusp of a major ground invasion of its neighbor. Mr. Murayev also shot down the allegations, telling CNN over the weekend “there is nothing to comment on.”
British officials provided little public evidence of their claims. But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss suggested that the U.K. government has intelligence that Moscow is essentially planning a coup in Kyiv and looking to build a puppet regime controlled by Russia.
“The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking,” Ms. Truss said in a statement released by Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
“Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy. As the U.K. and our partners have said repeatedly, any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs,” she said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry quickly responded with its own statement, charging that London is “spreading nonsense” about the situation on the Russia–Ukraine border.
“The misinformation spread by the British Foreign Office is another evidence that these are the NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, that are escalating tensions around Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said, according to Russia‘s state-run TASS News Agency.
A Russian effort to force out Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other top leaders would make sense, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has long sought to exercise greater control over former Soviet republics and prevent nations such as Ukraine from forging deeper ties with NATO.
It’s unclear exactly how a Russia-backed coup would play out in Kyiv. The British Foreign Office offered little clarity on the details, though London did name numerous former Ukrainian officials who it says maintain close relations with Russian intelligence. The Foreign Office said those individuals have contact with Russian agents planning an attack in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is preparing for military moves by Russia. President Biden met with his national security team at Camp David over the weekend, White House officials said.
“President Biden was briefed on the current state of Russian military operations on Ukraine’s borders and discussed both our ongoing efforts to de-escalate the situation with diplomacy and our range of deterrence measures that are being coordinated closely with our Allies and partners, including ongoing deliveries of security assistance to Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement. “President Biden again affirmed that should Russia further invade Ukraine, the United States will impose swift and severe consequences on Russia with our allies and partners.”
The first shipment of a $200 million U.S. security aid package for Ukraine arrived in the country on Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv announced on Saturday.