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UK Foreign Office says Kremlin is planning to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine

“Former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate,” the British Office for Foreign Affairs, Commonwealth and Development said. Murayev told CNN Saturday that he has “nothing to comment” on the charges, as he is a Ukrainian citizen and still faces Russian sanctions.

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

“Several of these are linked to Russian intelligence officers who are currently involved in the planning to attack Ukraine,” the British foreign office said in a statement. Russia has denied that it is planning an attack on Ukraine.

CNN contacted the UK foreign affairs office on Saturday for further comment on the claims, as well as supporting evidence, but it said it would not comment further.

“The information released today sheds light on the extent of Russia’s activity to overthrow Ukraine and is an insight into the thinking of the Kremlin,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

“Russia must bring down its aggression and disinformation campaigns, and pursue a diplomatic path,” Truss said. “As the UK and our partners have said many times, any Russian military attack on Ukraine would be a major strategic mistake with a cost.”

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

A brief US and British intelligence source confirmed that the US has evidence similar to that of the UK regarding a Russian plot to install a friendly government in Ukraine.

“Yes, we have seen intelligence that Russia is looking to reduce a protracted war.

Another source succinctly said the US “has similar information.”

Russia was previously accused of plotting to sow chaos in Ukraine through cyber attacks and, obviously, plot to take control of the government in Kyiv. But the Kremlin has repeatedly denied it is planning an invasion.
CNN Earlier reports the US accused Russia recruiting current and former Ukrainian government officials to try to take control of the Ukrainian government when it announced new sanctions on Thursday.

The Treasury Department has introduced sanctions against four current and former Ukrainian officials it says are involved in Kremlin-directed influence activities aimed at destabilizing Ukraine. Newly sanctioned individuals include Taras Romanovych Kozak, Volodymyr Mykolayovych Oliynyk, Vladimir Leonidovich Sivkovich and Oleh Voloshyn.

Sivkovich is the only former Ukrainian politician named in the US and British announcements.

The Treasury Department said four individuals – two of whom are current members of Ukraine’s parliament – acted under the direction of a US-sanctioned Russian intelligence agency and played “various roles” in the investigation. “Russia’s global influence campaign aims to destabilize sovereign states. supports the Kremlin’s political goals.”

US National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne expressed solidarity with Ukraine when the UK Foreign Office said it had information the Russian government was planning to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine, calling negative. The plot is “deeply disturbing.”

“This kind of conspiracy is very disturbing,” said Horne. “Ukrainian people have the right to determine their own future and we stand with our democratically elected partners in Ukraine.”

Romania, Bulgaria refuse Russia’s request to move NATO troops

That comes like NATO members Romania and Bulgaria have assessed Russia’s request to remove coalition troops from both countries as “unacceptable”, arguing that the Kremlin has no right to interfere in political decisions foreign policy of other sovereign states.

The comments by both countries come just hours after the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed NATO’s request to withdraw troops from Eastern European regions including Bulgaria and Romania. Two countries located on the Black Sea, that analysts believe Moscow is considered an important geostrategic buffer zone between itself and Europe.

Romania’s foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday “such a request is unacceptable and non-negotiable.” The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry called on Moscow to “show respect for the foreign policy choice that Bulgaria makes consciously.” Bulgaria’s ambassador to the UK, Marin Raykov, told the BBC that the Kremlin’s request was “an expression of contempt for Bulgaria’s sovereign rights to choose sources of guarantees for national security. ”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov listens during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on January 21, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Russia and NATO have been at odds since late last year, when the Kremlin deployed an estimated 100,000 troops to the border with Ukraine. That military action raised concerns that Russia was planning another attack on Ukraine following its illegal invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. That same year, Moscow began assisting supporting a pro-Russian separatist movement in eastern Ukraine that has left thousands dead.

In its statement, Romania said NATO’s military presence in Eastern Europe was “a strictly defensive response to the increasingly aggressive behavior of the Russian Federation … which began in 2014 when the territory Ukraine Crimea illegally occupied by Russia.”

“This behavior continues to increase for the time being, despite NATO’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue,” the statement read.

US Embassy in Kyiv asks State Department to allow exit of non-essential staff

The United States and its NATO allies have repeatedly warned Russia that any move of troops into Ukrainian territory would face what US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called “a stern and unified response”. .”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has in recent weeks argued that his country is the loser and is responding to NATO’s cooperation with Ukraine and the alliance’s eastward expansion since the fall of the Soviet Union. fall – which Russia considers an existential security threat.

Diplomats from all sides have tried to negotiate a peaceful solution, despite one of Russia’s core demands – NATO withdrawing foreign military forces and equipment from members of the alliance. alliance joined after 1997 – was quickly dismissed by Western diplomats as unwarranted.

“NATO allies are ready to engage in dialogue with Russia, but we will not compromise on core principles,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this month. “We will not compromise the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every country in Europe, and we will not compromise the right of all countries to choose their own path, including the kind of security arrangement they want to enter into, and won’t compromise on the allies’ right to defend and defend each other.”

Weapons sent to Ukraine

NATO members have, in recent days, deployed military equipment and personnel to members of the eastern alliance in response to Russia’s increase in troops in Ukraine.

The Dutch Defense Minister said the Netherlands would deploy two F-35 jets, along with support personnel, to Bulgaria in April or May, while the Spanish Defense Minister suggested send fighters and warships to the Black Sea.

The coalition has also begun sending weapons to Kyiv to deter a potential Russian invasion and bolster Ukraine’s defenses.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said light anti-tank weapons from the United Kingdom on Tuesday said that, while the Czech Republic plans to donate 152 mm caliber artillery shells to Ukraine in the coming days, Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová said on Friday.

Germany will provide a fully equipped field hospital to Ukraine, according to the German Defense Ministry. The country has traditionally avoided exporting arms to crisis zones since World War Two, but German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said earlier this week that “all measures” would be in place if Russia continued to provoke war with Ukraine.

United States Embassy in Kyiv say friday that the first US-directed shipment – 200,000 pounds of lethal aid, including ammunition for frontline fighters – had arrived in Ukraine.
Although US President Joe Biden has denied sending US combat troops to Ukraine, Washington approved arms shipments from the United States to Kyiv – including highly sought-after US air defense systems from Latvia and Lithuania. These weapons will help Ukraine fend off Russian planes that some officials and experts believe will guide the way in the early stages of a Russian invasion. Estonia has received approval to transfer the Javelin anti-tank guided missile system that the US has provided to Ukraine in the past.

CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite, Nic Robertson, Lauren Kent, Ivana Kottasová and Vasco Cotovio contributed to this report

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