Friday, February 3, 2023

Ukrainian leader says Russian-backed coup is planned for next week

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday that his country’s intelligence service revealed plans for a Russian-backed coup d’état in the country, scheduled for next week, allegedly involving one of the richest Ukrainian oligarchs.

Both the oligarch and the Russian government denied the charges. In Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he is spending the holiday weekend, US President Joe Biden raised concerns about the coup and renewed US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-government.

At a press conference in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, Zelenskiy said he had received information that a coup d’état was planned for next Wednesday or Thursday. He did not provide details to back up his claims, but pointed to the alleged role of Ukraine’s richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov.

The president said Ukrainian intelligence has audio recordings of an alleged meeting between Russian and Ukrainian officials discussing a coup plan allegedly funded by Akhmetov, which is worth an estimated $ 7.5 billion.

Zelenskiy declined to disclose details of the alleged coup, saying only that he had no plans to flee the country.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied commenting allegations to reporters in Moscow on Friday.

“Russia was not going to interfere,” Peskov said. “Russia never does things like that at all.”

Akhmetov called Zelenskiy’s claims “an absolute lie.” “I am outraged by the spread of this lie, whatever the president’s motives,” Akhmetov said in a statement to the Associated Press by his press secretary, Anna Terekhova.

Asked about the alleged plans for a coup d’état, senior US State Department European and Eurasian Affairs official Karen Donfried said: “We are contacting the Ukrainian government to discuss this further and we are working to obtain additional information.”

Biden told American reporters that he expects to speak with Putin and Zelensky, “in all likelihood.”

Volodymyr Fesenko, a Kiev-based political scientist and head of the Penta Center think tank, told AP that Zelenskiy has targeted Akhmetov after a “real information war” has been waged against the president on the oligarch-owned TV channels over the past two months.

On December 1, a mass protest is also planned in front of the presidential building.

The analyst pointed to the great dissatisfaction of the Ukrainian oligarchs, including Akhmetov, about the law adopted by Zelensky, limiting their influence on politics.

Fesenko called Zelensky’s link to Akhmetov in connection with the alleged coup a “preemptive signal” for the oligarch not to intervene in “risky political ventures, cross the red line and negotiate with Moscow.”

In recent weeks, Ukrainian and Western officials have expressed concern that a buildup of Russian military power near Ukraine could signal Moscow’s plans to invade its former Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists that it has no such intentions, and has accused Ukraine and its Western supporters of claiming that they are covering up their allegedly aggressive intentions.

Zelenskiy said that Ukraine has full control of its borders and is ready for any escalation of the conflict with Russia. But he noted that the media are intimidated by the possibility of such a conflict.

He also said that the head of his office, Andrei Yermak, would soon contact the Russian authorities at the request of the President of the European Council Charles Michel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“They want contacts between our administration and the Russian administration. I think that Ermak will contact them in the near future. We are absolutely not against it, ”Zelensky said.

National security writer Robert Burns of Washington and Darlene Superville of Nantucket, Massachusetts contributed to this report.

Nation World News Desk
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