The Ukrainian president said the country’s richest man, his rival, was being drawn into the plot.
By David L. Stern
November 26, 2021
The Washington Post
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that a group of Russians 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.
The reasons for the buildup are unclear, but officials say that it could be in preparation for an invasion or an escalation in the seven-year-old conflict in eastern Ukraine with anti-Kyiv forces, backed by Moscow, according to Western officials and independent researchers.
The Ukrainian president said that his country was prepared for any scenario. “We are in full control of our borders and ready if there will be an escalation,” Zelensky said.
Robyn Dixon in Moscow contributed to this report.