Kyiv ‘thwarts’ coup plot involving Russians; Kremlin denies role

As tensions between the neighbours grow, the Ukrainian president said the planned coup was set for December.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his government has recieved intelligence of a possible coup attempt involving Russians in December [File: Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his government has received information about a possible coup attempt slated for December that involves Russians.

Zelenskyy referenced the intelligence during a news conference on Friday.

“I received information that a coup d’etat will take place in our country on December 1-2,” he said, adding he had audio recordings as evidence.

He did not directly accuse the Russian government of being involved.

“We have challenges not only from the Russian Federation and possible escalation – we have big internal challenges,” Zelenskyy told reporters, referring to a Russian military build-up along the country’s western flank that has sparked concerns from Kyiv, the United States, and NATO of a possible invasion.

Russia dismissed the suggestions of an impending attack as inflammatory.

Moscow swiftly responded to Zelenskyy’s claim on Friday, saying it had no plan to participate in a coup, adding it does not participate in such actions.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has supported an ongoing separatist rebellion that broke out that year in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence has said about 90,000 Russian soldiers remain stationed near their border and in rebel-controlled areas in Ukraine’s east following recent training exercises.

The latest fallout follows a troop build-up earlier in the year that also raised concerns about a Russian invasion.

Those fears eventually subsided but in recent days, both sides have accused the other of ratcheting up the tensions, with Moscow hosting a military drill in the Black Sea, saying it was a response to increased NATO activity near its border.

For its part, Ukraine on Wednesday held what it called a “special operation” at its border with Belarus, which is closely aligned with Moscow. The training included drone exercises and military drills for anti-tank and airborne units.

On Friday, Zelenskyy said Ukraine is “entirely prepared for an escalation”.

“We need to depend on ourselves, on our army. It is powerful,” he said.

Observers have warned that such an escalation could prove catastrophic, and could drag in both countries’ allies, with NATO committed to protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the face of any possible Russian aggression.

Ukraine’s military has come a long way since 2014, when it was caught off-guard by Russia’s annexation of Crimea. That progress has largely relied on an injection of $2.5bn in military support from Washington in the last seven years.

US: ‘All options on the table’

Earlier this week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned Russia that it will “pay dearly” for an invasion. To date, the conflict on the eastern border has killed more than 13,000 people.

Meanwhile, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Friday spoke with Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, about Russian military activity near the border.

The two discussed Russia’s “harsh rhetoric” towards Ukraine and agreed all sides should pursue diplomatic efforts to ease tensions, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council said in a statement.

Sullivan also “underscored the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Also on Friday, another senior US official warned “all options are on the table” related to Russia’s “large and unusual” troop build-up near the border.

The NATO alliance will decide what the next move will be following consultations next week, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried told reporters.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Latvia and Sweden to attend the NATO and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meetings, where Donfried said the Russian troop build-up would be topping the agenda.

“Next week, we will talk about our assessment of what’s happening on Russia’s border with Ukraine and we will begin that conversations of what are the options that are on the table and what it is that NATO as an alliance would like to do together,” she said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies