UK foreign office says Kremlin is planning to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine

“The former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate,” the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said. Murayev told CNN Saturday “there is nothing to comment on” regarding the allegations, as he is a Ukrainian national and still facing Russian sanctions.

The statement went on to name four other former Ukrainian officials, saying, “We have information that the Russian intelligence services maintain links with numerous former Ukrainian politicians” including Serhiy Arbuzov, First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine from 2012 to 2014, and acting Prime Minister in 2014; Andriy Kluyev, First Deputy Prime Minister from 2010 to 2012 and Chief of Staff to former Ukrainian President Yanukovich, Vladimir Sivkovich, former Deputy Head of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (RNBO); Mykola Azarov, Prime Minister of Ukraine from 2010-2014, it said.

“Some of these have contact with Russian intelligence officers currently involved in the planning for an attack on Ukraine,” the British foreign office statement added. Russia has denied allegations it is planning to attack Ukraine.

Early Sunday, Russia’s foreign ministry called on the UK’s foreign office to “stop engaging in provocations,” state news agency TASS reported.

“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. We call on the British Foreign Office to stop provocative activities, stop spreading nonsense and focus on studying the history of the Tatar-Mongol yoke,” a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry told TASS.

CNN reached out to the UK foreign office on Saturday for further comment on its claims, as well as supporting evidence, but it said it would not comment any further.

“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,” UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

“Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy,” Truss said. “As the UK and our partners have said repeatedly, any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs.”

On Twitter, Truss said: “We will not tolerate (a) Kremlin plot to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine.”

CNN also reached out to the US State Department and the White House for comment.

Source: US has ‘same information’ as UK

In a statement Saturday, the White House said President Joe Biden met with his national security team to discuss “continued Russian aggressive actions toward Ukraine.”

The President was briefed on the 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,” it added.

“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 White House said.

A source briefed on the US and British intelligence confirmed the US has similar evidence as the UK, regarding Russia’s plot to install a friendly government in Ukraine.

“Yes, we have seen the intelligence that Russia is looking at ways to minimize a long, drawn out war. That includes things like installing a friendly government and using its spy agencies to foment dissent,” the source said.

Another source briefed said the US “has the same information.”

Russia has previously been accused of attempting to sow chaos in Ukraine through cyberattacks and, purportedly, plotting to take control of the government in Kyiv. But the Kremlin has repeatedly denied it is planning to invade.
CNN previously reported the US accused Russia of recruiting current and former Ukrainian government officials to attempt to take control of Ukraine’s government as it unveiled new sanctions on Thursday.

The Treasury Department rolled out sanctions against four current and former Ukrainian officials it said were involved in Kremlin-directed influence activities to destabilize Ukraine. Those newly sanctioned individuals include Taras Romanovych Kozak, Volodymyr Mykolayovych Oliynyk, Vladimir Leonidovich Sivkovich, and Oleh Voloshyn.

Sivkovich was the only former Ukrainian politician named in both the US and UK announcements.

The Treasury said the four individuals — two of whom are current members of Ukraine’s Parliament — were acting under the direction of a Russian intelligence service sanctioned by the US and played “various roles” in Russia’s “global influence campaign to destabilize sovereign countries in support of the Kremlin’s political objectives.”

US National Security Council Spokesperson Emily Horne expressed solidarity…

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