Russia plotting to replace Ukrainian government, UK says

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The UK said it revealed a plot by Russia to install a friendly government in Ukraine, backing an earlier US assessment suggesting the Kremlin is preparing plans to oust its neighbour’s leaders.

The allegations, announced by Britain’s Foreign Office on Saturday, come amid warnings that Russia could invade Ukraine with the roughly 100,000 troops it has mustered near the border.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said the UK’s allegations that the United States had “warned against this type of tactic for weeks”. Speaking on CNN, he added: “It’s an integral part of the Russian toolbox” of strategies to undermine Ukraine.

Neither the UK nor the US has revealed exactly how they believe Moscow intends to bring its alleged agents to power. Western and Ukrainian officials say Russia is considering various scenarios, ranging from a military invasion to a destabilization campaign aimed at overthrowing the government of pro-Western Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The United States said about 100,000 Russian troops have been deployed near the Ukrainian border. Satellite images show the growing presence of military equipment in several places. Photo: Maxar Technologies

“We have information indicating that the Russian government is seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kiev as it plans to invade and occupy Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Although the Kremlin did not respond to a request for comment, it denied any plans to invade or undermine Ukraine, even as it seeks to subjugate the former Soviet republic and halt its integration with the ‘West.

On Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry called the allegations propaganda.

“The disinformation spread by the UK Foreign Office is further evidence that it is NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, who are escalating tensions around Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement. posted on his Telegram messaging page. “We call on the UK Foreign Office to stop its provocative activities, to stop spreading nonsense.”

The United States and several of its allies have pledged to hammer Russia with economic and other sanctions if it expands an invasion of Ukraine that began in 2014. This complicates the West’s response. Senior Ukrainian officials say they believe the Kremlin is more likely to seek to destabilize Ukraine and remove its leadership than to launch a full-scale military invasion.

President Biden acknowledged on Wednesday that the United States and its allies may struggle to find common ground on how to respond if Russia mounts a “minor incursion.” The White House later clarified that any further movement across the border by Russian troops would be met with “a swift, severe, and united response.”

The Foreign Ministry statement named an ex-lawmaker as Russia’s candidate for prime minister and cited Russian intelligence links to four former senior officials who fled to Russia in 2014 when their boss, former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in massive street protests.

“Some of them have contacts with Russian intelligence officers currently involved in planning an attack on Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Former Yanukovych government officials have long been plotting a return to power in Ukraine, according to a person who contacted them. They are firmly under the control of Russian security services, the person said.

The UK has played an important role in efforts to dissuade Russia from sending its army to Ukraine, sending thousands of anti-tank weapons to the country in recent days.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the information released on Saturday demonstrated the extent of the Kremlin’s activities aimed at overthrowing Ukraine.

“Russia must defuse, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation and continue on the path of diplomacy,” she said. “As the UK and our partners have repeatedly said, any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with significant costs.”

The allegations come two days after the United States sanctioned four pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians who it says were engaged in Kremlin-led efforts to destabilize Ukraine.

“Russia has ordered its intelligence services to recruit current and former Ukrainian government officials to prepare to take over the Ukrainian government and control Ukraine’s critical infrastructure with a Russian occupation force,” he said. the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said in a statement. Thusday.

Write to James Marson at [email protected]

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