UK claims Kremlin plotting to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine

23 January, 11:49 AM
A banner on Ukraine Trade Unions House on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv shows an ad for the former pro-Russian MP Yevhen Murayev and his

A banner on Ukraine Trade Unions House on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv shows an ad for the former pro-Russian MP Yevhen Murayev and his "This is our Land" political program. This banner was up for only 30 minutes before it was removed. (Photo:Courtesy of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe)

With fears of a further Russian invasion of Ukraine growing, the Kremlin is already plotting to install a Russia-friendly regime in Kyiv, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a press release issued late on Jan 22.

“The former pro-Russian MP Yevhen Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate,” the foreign office message reads.

In response, Murayev published a photoshopped picture of himself posing as James Bond with a gun on a poster from the “Skyfall” movie in his official Telegram channel.

In a comment to Russian media, Murayev said that the U.K. foreign office had made a mistake. Russia has imposed sanctions against Murayev and banned him from the country as a person who threatens Russian national security, freezing even his father’s assets, the politician told Ekho Moskvy.

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The pro-Russian MP Murayev, 45, is a beneficial owner of the TV channel Nash, which usually broadcasts pro-Russian narratives in Ukraine. Murayev frequently hosts shows there, presenting himself as a critic of “Western rule over Ukraine.”

In 2019 Murayev ran for the presidency, but soon withdrew his candidacy in favor of other pro-Russian politicians. As of December, only some 6.5% of Ukrainians said they would vote for Murayev as Ukraine’s president, according to a poll by sociological group Ranking published on Dec. 10. 

In November 2021 Murayev presented his own program for Ukraine called “This is Our Land. New formula for the country” – a series of public speeches by Murayev spreading xenophobia, anti-vaccine claims and conspiracy theories about Ukraine and Europe.  

The U.K also has information about Russian intelligence services still maintains links with numerous Ukrainian officials who fled Ukraine to Moscow during and after the EuroMaidan Revolution in 2014.  Serhiy Arbuzov, first deputy prime Minister of Ukraine from 2012-2014, Andriy Kluyev, chief of staff to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, Vladimir Sivkovich, the former deputy head of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council and Mykola Azarov, the ex-prime minister of Ukraine, may be involved in preparing an attack against Ukraine, the UK Foreign Office claims.

“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 the statement.

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

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