Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelensky are back in the news this week with Russian troops and materiel building up on the border, and tensions have gotten high enough that Zelensky is now outright accusing provocateurs including one of Ukraine's wealthiest tycoon of an imminent coup plot.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that a group of Russian and Ukrainians is planning to stage a coup d’etat in Ukraine next month and that the plotters are trying to enlist the help of the country’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov.
Zelensky, speaking at a “press marathon” for local and international media, said that audio recordings, obtained by Ukraine’s security services, caught plotters discussing their plans and mentioning Akhmetov’s name. Akhmetov was not involved in the actual coup plot, however, Zelensky said.
“I believe [Akhmetov] is being dragged into the war against Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “This will be a big mistake, because it is impossible to fight against the people, against the president elected by the people of Ukraine.”
Zelensky said the alleged coup was being planned for Dec. 1 or 2. He did not provide further details, however.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any Russian role in the alleged plot.
“Russia never engages in such things. There have never been such plans,” he said.
Ukrainian media in recent weeks have commented on the growing tensions between Zelensky and Akhmetov. Zelensky has launched a “de-oligarchization”campaign to reduce the political influence of Ukraine’s richest people, who control key sections of the economy.
Akhmetov, a mining and steel tycoon, also owns media holdings, which in recent weeks have increased their criticism of Zelensky and his administration.
Zelensky’s comments also come against a backdrop of rising tensions between Kyiv and Moscow.
Western and Ukrainian officials say that they have observed a buildup of Russian forces on the country’s border with Ukraine.
Very few of the possible scenarios that could unfold after this are going to exactly contribute to Eastern European stability, folks. I hate to say this, but it really depends on what Putin does from here now that Zelensky has called his hand. He may do nothing, he may already have a backup plan, or he may decide that the Crimea needs defending.
With nearly all ballots counted in the run-off vote, Mr Zelensky had taken more than 73% with incumbent Petro Poroshenko trailing far behind on 24%.
"I will never let you down," Mr Zelensky told celebrating supporters.
Russia says it wants him to show "sound judgement", "honesty" and "pragmatism" so that relations can improve. Russia backs separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The comments came from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in a Facebook post on Monday (in Russian).
He said he expected Mr Zelensky to "repeat familiar ideological formulas" that he used in the election campaign, adding: "I have no illusions on that score.
A comedian who played the Ukrainian president on TV became the actual president. We've seen worse, but the point is, he's in charge, not Putin.