Russian FSB agency tasked with staging coups in Ukrainian cities, says UK | Russia
Britain believes Russia’s powerful FSB spy agency was tasked with trying to stage coups in major Ukrainian cities immediately after any Kremlin-launched invasion.
The assessment is that an attack would see Russia first strike against military targets, then encircle the capital Kiev and possibly other major cities, with FSB saboteurs then trying to install pro-Russian leaders there. inside.
No specific evidence has been put forward to justify the two-stage plan, but it is nonetheless seen by the UK as a central invasion scenario, aimed at “regime change” in Ukraine, in which Russia would seek to avoid bloody and violent acts. risk an urban war after an attack on its neighbour.
Britain and the United States both believe Russia has now assembled a force capable of invading Ukraine after massing more than 135,000 troops around its borders. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said over the weekend he believed an attack was now “highly likely” and cut short a family holiday.
The two Western countries have issued a series of intelligence-based warnings about Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine in recent weeks, including that the Kremlin is planning false flag operations as a pretext for the invasion, and that he group of five mostly former Ukrainian politicians had been recruited to participate in a coup.
Some have been critically received in Kyiv and elsewhere. Four of the five Ukrainian politicians are now based in Moscow, making their ties to Russia a matter of public record, while the fifth, former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev, said he had been banned from Russia and that there was “no public evidence” of his involvement.
Russia denies plans to attack its southern neighbor and has called Western warnings “hysteria”. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has also sought to downplay the likelihood of an invasion, saying on Saturday: “Right now the greatest enemy of the people is panic.”
Ukraine is also skeptical of the possibility of installing pro-Russian leaders in Kiev and its other major cities, even in the context of a military incursion, given the widespread public hostility to Moscow in the country.
But Western sources fear that President Vladimir Putin did not appreciate the depth of popular opinion in Ukraine. “Many overly optimistic assessments are passed all the way to the top of the Kremlin,” an official said.
A similar multi-step plan was highlighted by German tabloid Bild earlier this month, based on an overseas secret service source. The newspaper went on to say that Russia would then seek to appoint a pro-Kremlin parliament and bring together Ukrainian activists and opposition leaders.
In response, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Bild had “crossed all possible lines of humane and genuine morality and ethics”.
Ukraine’s SBU intelligence agency and others have repeatedly exposed evidence of FSB interference in the country since the start of the war with Russia in 2014. Late last year, the SBU has said it uncovered a plot to smuggle explosives into the country from Russian-occupied Crimea. .
Zelenskiy said in late November that a coup plot had been uncovered, which officials said was planned by an FSB officer and defectors from Ukraine’s Interior Ministry who had traveled to Crimea.
Responsibility for Ukraine within the FSB rests with its Fifth Service, responsible for intelligence operations in former Soviet states. Its leader is Sergei Beseda, who was placed on US, EU and UK sanctions lists in 2014.
Beseda was wanted by Ukraine for questioning following the anti-Russian Maidan revolution in February 2014, believing he was part of a failed attempt to gain control of violent efforts to quell popular protests. Moscow said it was there to help provide protection for the Russian Embassy during a time of uncertainty.