Russian Foreign Ministry Blasts 'Nonsense' UK Claims That Moscow Sought Puppet Gov in Ukraine
22:59 GMT 22.01.2022 (Updated: 04:18 GMT 23.01.2022)
Moments earlier, the UK accused Russia of intending to install a puppet government in Ukraine, going so far as naming five Ukrainian politicians with purported ties to the effort.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has slammed unsubstantiated claims aired by the UK on Saturday that suggested Moscow was intending to "install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine amid the latest surge in tensions.
A statement by the ministry labelled the UK accusations as another effort by Western nations to escalate tensions in the region, underscoring that the so-called "exposed" findings were "nonsense".
"The disinformation spread by the British Foreign Office is yet more evidence that it is the NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, that are escalating tensions around Ukraine", reads the statement, before urging the parties to "halt provocative activities".
The release was issued shortly after the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office accused Russia of trying to install a "pro-Russian leader" in Ukraine, and of maintaining links with former Ukrainian politicians.
An earlier statement by British authorities stated that investigators are in the possession of "information that indicates the Russian government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kiev as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine".
"The former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate", the release continued, before naming four other Ukrainian figures with whom "Russian intelligence services" are said to "maintain links with".
Incidentally, Murayev has been on the Russian sanctions list since 25 December 2018. The former politician told The Telegraph
that he felt "amused" by the UK's allegations.
"As someone who has been under Russian sanctions for four years, barred from Russia as a national security threat and whose father got his assets frozen in Russia, I find it hard to comment on the Foreign Office's statement", Murayev said, adding "I have a hard time digesting stupidity and nonsense".
However, Murayev suggested during his remarks to the outlet that it was more likely that Viktor Medvedchuk, the chairman of the political council of the Ukrainian party Opposition Platform — For Life, was a potential "candidate".
The UK's release included no evidence to back any of the claims and no details about how Russia was to go about imposing a "pro-Russia" government, however, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss went on to assert in an accompanying statement that the baseless intel "shine[s] a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine".
Truss continued by stating that the alleged intelligence was an "insight into Kremlin thinking".
Unnamed British officials who spoke with The New York Times under the condition of anonymity relayed to the outlet that the UK chose to move forward with its claims as part of its effort to prevent the installation of a puppet government, as well as to put Russian President Vladimir Putin "on notice that this plot had been exposed".
American officials who spoke to The Times indicated that the UK intelligence was "correct". Emily J. Horne, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, commented that the allegations were "deeply concerning".
The UK declaration comes after Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said earlier on Saturday that Moscow anticipated military and informational provocations from the West and Ukraine on the eve of the Beijing Olympics.
Russia has repeatedly denied accusations that it intends to invade neighbouring Ukraine, a purported move that has grabbed headlines for several months.
Russian officials have consistently indicated that the allegations voiced by the US and backed by its allies are meant as a pretext for deploying additional NATO equipment and infrastructure closer to Russia's borders.