Updated Jan 23, 2022 - World

U.K. government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

Liz Truss

British foreign secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans/AFP via Getty Images

The U.K.'s foreign secretary on Saturday night said the government has "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 latest: “I can’t comment on specific pieces of intelligence. But we’ve been warning about just this kind of tactic for weeks and we’ve spoken to that publicly," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

  • "Just last week we sanctioned four agents of Russia, Ukrainians in Ukraine, seeking to destabilize the government,” Blinken said on CNN's "State of the Union."
  • Blinken met on Friday with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, and the chief U.S. diplomat said his counterpart once again assured him Russia has no intention of attacking Ukraine, but added: "We're looking at what is visible to all, and it is deeds and actions, not words, that make the difference."

Driving the news: Vladimir Putin is considering Yevhen Murayev, a former member of Ukraine's Parliament, "as a potential candidate," according to the Saturday release from the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

  • The Kremlin issued a denial on Sunday with Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying on the Telegram messaging app that the British Foreign Office is "spreading nonsense.”

State of play: President Biden, who is spending the weekend at Camp David, held Russia-focused meetings in-person and virtually with his his national security team, the White House said on Saturday evening.

What they're saying: "The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking," the United Kingdom's foreign secretary Liz Truss said in the release.

  • U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios on Saturday night.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

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