UK Accuses Russia of Trying to Install a Puppet Leader in Ukraine: The United Kingdom has accused the Kremlin of seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine, as fears of a full-fledged Russian invasion grow. High-level negotiations between Russia, the United States, and the West have thus far produced no breakthroughs in finding a peaceful solution.
British intelligence said Russian intelligence officers had been in contact with a number of Ukrainian politicians as part of a plan to move in either by invasion or after the installation of a puppet leader, ostensibly at the leader’s invitation.
This was the second time in the past week that one of the Western powers has accused Russia of meddling in the internal affairs of Ukraine. Last week, the U.S. accused Russia of sending mercenary saboteurs trained in urban warfare and explosives, into eastern Ukraine to create a provocation that could serve as a pretext for invasion. The unusual release of this type of information is designed to stop the alleged activities before the Russians can act.
The British foreign ministry said it had intelligence that the Russian government was considering trying to install former Ukrainian law-maker Yevhen Murayev as a potential candidate to steer Ukraine back into Russia’s sphere of influence.
The British foreign ministry declined to provide supporting evidence to back up its accusations, which came at a time when tensions between Russia and the West over Russia’s massing of troops near its border with Ukraine, with the numbers now reportedly numbering over 127,000. Moscow has insisted it has no plans to invade.
“We will not tolerate Kremlin plot to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine,” British foreign secretary Liz Truss said in a post on Twitter. “The Kremlin knows a military incursion would be a massive strategic mistake and the UK and our partners would impose a severe cost on 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,” Truss added.
“Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy.”
The British intelligence claims are nothing new, although, in its accusation, they named four other Ukrainians with whom the Russian intelligence had close ties with were involved in the possible coup.
Among those alleged by the British to have ties to Russian intelligence are Serhiy Arbuzov, the former first deputy prime minister from 2012 to 2014 and acting prime minister in 2014, Andriy Kluyev, formerly the first deputy prime minister from 2010 to 2012 and chief of staff to President Viktor Yanukovych; Volodymyr Sivkovich, who was the deputy head of the National Security and Defense Council (RNBO); and Mykola Azarov, prime minister of Ukraine from 2010 to 2014.
Back in November Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country’s intelligence had uncovered a Russian-backed coup plot involving a prominent Ukrainian oligarch.
Russian intelligence operatives maintain close ties with some of the Ukrainian members of its intelligence community, back from the days of the Soviet Union and then through the era of Russian-installed puppet governments.
Murayev was once a member of the Kremlin’s puppet government in Kyiv and had served under former Ukrainian President Yanukovych. Later he became the head of a political party called Nashi, part of a group of opposition parties who are opposed to Ukraine’s move to have closer ties with the West.
Murayev dismissed the British allegations scoffed at the notion that he was part of a Russian plot claiming the Russians placed sanctions on him. He does, however, blame the West, not Russia for the tensions in the country.
“This morning I already read in all the news publications this conspiracy theory: absolutely unproven, absolutely unfounded,” Murayev said.
“Peace, not NATO, is in our interests, and if the question now is that we will have a war and hundreds of thousands will die because the collective West wants to see us as a launchpad, I think that this goes against our interests.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry also dismissed the British claims as “disinformation” and another example of NATO members “escalating tensions around Ukraine.”
“We urge the British Foreign Ministry to stop provocative activities,” the ministry said in a posted statement on Facebook.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has begun to reduce the staff at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine of families and non-essential personnel due to the threat of a Russian invasion and made a statement that the allegation that Moscow intends to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine is “deeply concerning,” a statement from National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said.
“This kind of plotting is deeply concerning. The Ukrainian people have the sovereign right to determine their own future, and we stand with our democratically elected partners in Ukraine,” Horne added.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 1945, he covers the NFL for PatsFans.com and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.