United Kingdom: Russia seeks to replace the Ukrainian government

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By JILL LAWLESS and JARI TANNER, Associated Press

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LONDON (AP) — The British government on Saturday accused Russia of seeking to replace Ukraine’s government with a pro-Moscow administration, and said former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev was considered a potential candidate.

Murayev leads the small pro-Russian Nashi party, which currently has no seat in the Ukrainian parliament.

The UK Foreign Office named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links to Russian intelligence.

It is unclear what means Britain thinks Russia could use to install a friendly government in Kyiv.

The British government made this claim based on an intelligence assessment, without providing any supporting evidence. It comes amid a war of words between Moscow and the West over Russia’s designs on Ukraine.

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train on Saturday in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine. Dozens of civilians have joined Ukrainian army reserves in recent weeks, fearing a Russian invasion.

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AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

On Saturday, members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine. Dozens of civilians have joined Ukrainian army reserves in recent weeks, fearing a Russian invasion.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the information “sheds light on the extent of Russian activity aimed at overthrowing Ukraine and provides insight into Kremlin thinking.”

Truss urged Russia to “de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation and pursue diplomacy”, and reiterated Britain’s view that “any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with significant costs.”

Britain has sent anti-tank weapons to Ukraine as part of efforts to bolster its defenses against a possible Russian attack.

Amid diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is expected to meet Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for talks in Moscow. No timetable has been given for the meeting, which would be the first bilateral defense talks between the UK and Russia since 2013.

The United States has mounted an aggressive campaign in recent months to unite its European allies against another Russian invasion of Ukraine. The White House called the UK government’s assessment “deeply concerning” and said it backed Ukraine’s duly elected government.

“This kind of conspiracy is deeply concerning,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said. “The Ukrainian people have the sovereign right to determine their own future, and we stand with our democratically elected partners in Ukraine.”

The assessment came as Biden spent Saturday at the Camp David presidential retreat outside Washington, huddling with his national security team on the situation in Ukraine.

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