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Russia accuses NATO of escalating tensions around Ukraine after UK alleges anti-Kyiv plot

The UK said Saturday that Yevhen Murayev, a former Ukrainian member of parliament, was a potential candidate to be installed by Russia.

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Russia hit back on Sunday after the U.K. alleged that Moscow is plotting to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv, with the West continuing to warn that Moscow could yet invade Ukraine.

The assertions, offered without a timeline on the intelligence, were contained in a U.K. Foreign Office statement on Saturday.

The U.K. claim is “evidence” that NATO countries, not Russia, “are escalating tensions around Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday. The statement demanded the Foreign Office “stop spreading nonsense.”

The U.K. said Saturday that Yevhen Murayev, a former Ukrainian member of parliament, was a potential candidate to be installed by Russia.

The Foreign Office said it had information that Russian intelligence services maintain links with “numerous” former Ukrainian politicians. It mentioned four by name who are already subject to Western sanctions. The men, who left Ukraine in 2014, are believed to reside in Russia.

The assertions precede a U.K. bid to ramp up pressure on Russia, with the defense and foreign secretaries set to travel to Europe for talks. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will schedule calls with Group of Seven leaders this week to finalize additional sanctions on backers of President Vladimir Putin, according to officials.

In Washington, a National Security Council spokeswoman called the alleged plotting “deeply concerning.”

President Joe Biden met with his national security team on Saturday to discuss continued Russian aggression toward Ukraine. He was briefed on Russia’s military buildup along the Ukrainian border and discussed the range of options for the U.S. and its allies, a White House official said.

Last week, the U.S. said Russian actors were preparing potential sabotage operations against their own forces and fabricating provocations on social media to justify an invasion into Ukraine.

U.S. military aid started arriving in Ukraine on Friday “in the face of growing Russian aggression,” the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said on Twitter. The U.K. is also sending supplies.

Diplomatic Standoff

Russia has assembled a large armed force on its border with Ukraine and sent troops and armor to Belarus, to Ukraine’s north, for joint military drills scheduled to begin Feb. 10.

Moscow has repeatedly denied that it has any intentions to invade.

A meeting in Geneva led by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov didn’t yield an agreement. Aides to Ukrainian, Russian, German and French leaders will probably meet in Paris for talks on Jan. 26.

The four former Ukrainian officials named by the U.K. are Serhiy Arbuzov, Mykola Azarov, Andriy Kluyev and Volodymyr Sivkovych.

Azarov was prime minister from 2010 to 2014, Arbuzov is a former first deputy prime minister, and Kluyev is a former chief of staff.

All three were allies of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was toppled after deadly street protests and fled to Russia in 2014. At that point they had their assets blocked over Russian actions in Ukraine, and are still challenging the move in international courts.

The fourth, Sivkovych, was sanctioned on Thursday by the U.S., which said he was among “pawns” working with Russia’s spy agencies to destabilize Ukraine.

The Kremlin, which backed Yanukovych, annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and stoked a military conflict in the country’s two easternmost regions, which has claimed more than 14,000 lives. – Bloomberg.

Also read: How Biden could impact effect of potential war in Ukraine on Europe’s energy crisis


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