Russia would face severe economic sanctions if it installs a puppet regime in Ukraine, a senior British official said yesterday after the UK accused the Kremlin of seeking to install a pro-Russian leader there.
Britain made the accusation late on Saturday, also saying that Russian intelligence officers had been in contact with a number of former Ukrainian politicians as part of plans for an invasion.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the comments as “disinformation,” accusing Britain and NATO of “escalating tensions” over Ukraine.
“There’ll be very serious consequences if Russia takes this move to try and invade but also install a puppet regime,” British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News yesterday.
The British accusations, first made in a statement by the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, come at a time of high tensions between Moscow and the West over Russia’s massing of troops near its border with Ukraine.
Moscow has said that it has no plans to invade.
The foreign office said it had information that the Kremlin was considering former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevhen Murayev as a potential candidate to head a pro-Russian administration in Kiev.
Murayev, 45, is a pro-Russian politician who opposes Ukraine’s integration with the West.
A poll by the Razumkov Center think tank last month ranked him seventh among candidates for the 2024 Ukrainian presidential election with 6.3 percent support.
Murayev poured cold water on Britain’s claims that Russia wants to install him as Ukraine’s leader.
“The time of pro-Western and pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine is gone forever,” he wrote on Facebook. “Ukraine needs new politicians whose policy will be based solely on the principles of the national interests of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”
The foreign office declined to provide evidence to back its accusations.
An internal 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.
“We will not tolerate a Kremlin plot to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine,” British Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Liz Truss wrote on Twitter.
The British claims came after the top US and Russian diplomats on Friday failed to make a major breakthrough in talks to resolve the crisis, although they agreed to keep talking.
Russia has made security demands on the US, including a halt to NATO’s eastward expansion and a pledge that Ukraine would never be allowed to join the Western military alliance.
US 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.”
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