By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 23 January 2022 • 8:31
The UK formally accused the Kremlin of trying to change the leadership in the Ukraine, with efforts being made to try and install a pro-Russian leader. The accusation follows reports that Russian intelligence had been in contact with a number of former Ukrainian politicians as part of their war build up.
The British foreign ministry declined to provide evidence to back its accusations, which came after the Russian foreign minister met his UK counterpart for talks.
The British ministry said it had information the Russian government was considering former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevhen Murayev as a potential candidate to head a pro-Russian leadership.
“We will not tolerate Kremlin plot to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter. “The Kremlin knows a military incursion would be a massive strategic mistake & the UK and our partners would impose a severe cost on Russia.”
There has been no immediate responses to the statement from the foreign office, which was released in the early hours of Sunday, Moscow and Kyiv time.
A foreign ministry source said it was not usual practice to share intelligence matters, and the details had only been declassified after careful consideration to deter Russian aggression.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed the comments as “disinformation”, accusing Britain and NATO of “escalating tensions” over Ukraine.
“We urge the Foreign Office to cease these provocative activities, stop spreading nonsense and finally concentrate its efforts on studying the history of the Mongol-Tatar yoke,” the ministry said on its verified Facebook account.
The British and Russian foreign ministries have agreed to keep talking although as yet there are no breakthroughs, with neither prepared to budge on their redline. Russia believe that NATO’s eastward expansion is a threat to the country.
U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement: “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.”
Murayev, 45, is a pro-Russian politician who opposes Ukraine’s integration with the West. His support within the country is however low, with a poll by the Razumkov’s Centre think tank conducted in December 2021 ranking him seventh among candidates for the 2024 presidential election with 6.3% support.
“You’ve made my evening. The British Foreign Office seems confused,” Murayev told Britain’s Observer newspaper. “It isn’t very logical. I’m banned from Russia. Not only that, but money from my father’s firm there, has been confiscated.”
Britain, which this week supplied 2,000 missiles and a team of military trainers to Ukraine, also said it had information that Russian intelligence services were maintaining links with “numerous” former Ukrainian politicians, including senior figures with links to ex-President Viktor Yanukovich.
Yanukovich fled to Russia in 2014 after three months of protests against his rule and was sentenced in absentia to 13 years in jail on treason charges in 2019.
“Some of these have contact with Russian intelligence officers currently involved in the planning for an attack on Ukraine,” the British foreign office statement said.
Downing Street have confirmed that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was planning to ramp up pressure on Russia this week by calling for European counterparts to come together with the United States to face down Russian aggression.
Earlier, RIA news agency reported that British foreign minister Truss would visit Moscow in February to meet her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, while Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and his British counterpart Ben Wallace have also agreed to hold talks. These will amongst other issues cover the assertion that the Kremlin is plotting to install a pro-Russian leader in the Ukraine.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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