The British government has accused the Kremlin of seeking to install a pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine, in a statement on Jan. 22.
"We have information that indicates the Russian government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine," the statement published on the UK government website reads.
Former Ukrainian pro-Russian lawmaker Yevhen Murayev, owner of Nash TV channel, is "being considered as a potential candidate" to lead the puppet pro-Russian government, according to the report.
"We will not tolerate the Kremlin plot to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine," U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Jan. 23. "The Kremlin knows a military incursion would be a massive strategic mistake and the U.K. and our partners would impose a severe cost on Russia."
According to the press release, U.K. has information indicating that Russian intelligence services are in contact with four pro-Russian politicians that were part of the government of Kremlin-backed Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted during the EuroMaidan Revolution in 2014.
According to CNN, which quoted sources in the State Department, the U.S. "has the same information."
The Russian Foreign Ministry denied the claims, stating that it's all disinformation, and blamed the U.K. and NATO for attempting to escalate tensions.
The wrong pro-Russian
Ukrainian political observers began questioning the information provided by the UK government.
Despite being excessively pro-Russian, the former lawmaker had a rocky relationship with Moscow after declining the invitation to join Kremlin-backed politician Viktor Medvedchuk and his Opposition Platform political project.
In 2018, the Kremlin added Murayev to its sanctions list set to "protect the interests of Russians and Russian companies."
Murayev ended up stuck between a rock and a hard place.
His views have echoed Kremlin’s propaganda. He has called the Russia-backed war in eastern Ukraine a “civil war” and the 2014 pro-Western EuroMaidan Revolution a coup d’etat. He is also vocal in attacking Ukrainian politicians and cultural figures.
Meanwhile, in early 2019, he accused Medvedchuk of being behind the Russian sanctions imposed on him, saying that its a punishment for not joining Medvedchuk's project.
“Everything (Medvedchuk) touches has no political future,” he said of his former ally. “Everything collapses and fades, birds stop singing," Murayev said.
Murayev was also one of the first whistleblowers about the alleged connection between pro-Kremlin Medvedchuk and then President Petro Poroshenko.
“We have only one postman who tells Poroshenko what Putin wants, and who tells Putin what Poroshenko wants,” Murayev said in 2019.
Poroshenko was charged with high treason in December. He is suspected of conspiring with Medvedchuk to supply coal from Russian-occupied territories in eastern Ukraine in 2014-2015 when Poroshenko was president. If found guilty, the former leader faces 12-15 years in prison.
Medvedchuk has also been charged in the case and remains under pre-trial house arrest since May.
Meanwhile, Murayev remains relatively popular with the help of his Nash (Ours) TV channel. After the closure, in February, of three pro-Russian TV channels linked to Medvedchuk - NewsOne, 112 Channel and ZIK - Murayev's ratings went up.
According to December pollster by Rating Group, Murayev's Nashi party polls at 5.7% slightly over the parliament threshold, yet still behind the main pro-Kremlin party - Medvedchuk's Opposition Platform - which has 10.5% and 44 seats in parliament.
The information about a potential Kremlin-backed coup was released a day after yet another meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov concluded without results.
In recent weeks, the U.K. has proven to be one of Ukraine's most important partners against Russian aggression. In addition to supplying military aid, Britain is attempting to defuse tensions through diplomatic means. The U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu are set to meet in Moscow. The date of the meeting has not been set.
"I lean towards the version that this is a deliberate 'leak' from Russia, which also reflects the competition between various pro-Russian groups in Ukraine," wrote pro-government political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko on Facebook.
"But in any case, the Foreign Office statement is a good reason for Ukraine's Security Service to take on Murayev, his allies and his channel, which for almost a year has become the main mouthpiece of pro-Russian propaganda in Ukraine," he added.
This isn't the first time a Kremlin-backed coup is mentioned by top officials.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Nov. 26 that audio recordings obtained by the Ukrainian intelligence show Ukrainian and Russian representatives discuss the richest Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov’s alleged participation in a coup scheduled for Dec. 1-2.
“(According to the data), $1 billion will be spent. (Akhmetov) is being pulled into a war against the Ukrainian state, and I believe that he has started it, and that will be a big mistake,” Zelensky said.
Akhmetov responded that the information is “an absolute lie,” claiming he roots for “an independent, democratic, and united Ukraine with Crimea and his home region, Donbas.”