Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a joint briefing with the Azerbaijan following their talks at the Mariinsky Palace in Kiev on Jan.14. British officials said Saturday night that Kremlin officials plan to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine and have considered a potential candidate. File Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE
Jan. 22 (UPI) -- British officials said Saturday night that the Kremlin plans to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine and has considered a potential candidate.
The British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in the statement that Russian officials are considering installing Yevhen Murayev, a former member of parliament in Ukraine, if Russian President Vladimir Putin decides to invade the country.
British officials also released the names of four former Ukrainian politicians who maintain links to Russian intelligence: former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, former acting-Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov, former First Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Kluyev and Vladimir Sivkovich, former Deputy Head of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council.
"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," Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said. "Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy."
Truss reiterated that any Russian military incursion into Ukraine "would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs," a stance that has also been taken by President Joe Biden.
British officials told The New York Times that the decision was made to reveal the plot in an attempt to thwart it from happening.
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded to the accusation from the British government in a statement accusing Britain of spreading "disinformation."
"The misinformation spread by the British Foreign Office is another evidence that these are the NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, that are escalating tensions around Ukraine," the statement reads. "We call on the British Foreign Office to stop provocative activities, stop spreading nonsense and focus on studying the history of the Tatar-Mongol yoke."
Murayev laughed off the accusation from the British government in comments to The Guardian, noting that he is "banned from Russia" and that money from his father's firm was confiscated by the Russian government.
"You've made my evening. The British Foreign Office seems confused," Murayev said.
On Saturday, the U.S. government delivered 200,000 pounds of "lethal aid" to Ukraine to provide security assistance to defend against possible a Russian invasion, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev said.