Could Russian-Backed Diplomats Engineer a Coup in Ukraine?

The British government is claiming that the Russian government of Vladimir Putin is planning on executing a coup d’etat against the Ukrainian government headed by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The report was unusually specific, naming five former Ukrainian ministers, of whom four served under former President Viktor Yanukovych — the Russian-backed leader driven from office in 2014.

The fifth plotter is a former member of the Ukrainian Parliament named Yevgeniy Murayev. He would be installed as leader of a pro-Russian government in Kyiv.

Would Joe Biden consider a coup a “minor incursion”? It’s unknown how many — if any — Russian troops would be involved in such a coup. Since it’s unlikely the Ukrainian army would lie down and allow Russia to waltz in and take over, any coup attempt is likely to trigger a war.

New York Times:

“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,” Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, said in a statement. “Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy.”

The communiqué provided few details about how Russia might go about imposing a new government on Ukraine, and did not say whether such plans were contingent on an invasion by Russian troops. British officials familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the intent was both to head off the activation of such plans as well as to put Mr. Putin on notice that this plot had been exposed.

Is this more misdirection from Mr. Putin? It’s impossible to be sure, but this feels like the real thing. Putin can sometimes be too clever for his own good and his stratagems to avoid conflict with NATO, and the U.S. sometimes go off the rails.

This doesn’t feel like a deliberate leak by Moscow to confuse the West. It feels like Putin got caught trying to outflank Biden and NATO by getting what he wants with as little bloodshed as possible. That’s not going to happen now.

What does Putin want? Nothing less than the complete subjugation of Ukraine.

At a security conference in Kyiv on Saturday, participants, most of them high ranking members of Ukraine’s political opposition, spoke darkly of fifth columnists and enemy collaborators.

“We are not just talking about large-scale aggression by Russia,” said Pavlo Klimkin, a former foreign minister. “We are talking about the wish of Russian officials, including Putin, to destroy Ukraine as such.”

Putin has never forgiven Ukraine for his humiliation during the Orange Revolution in 2004 when Russian-backed Ukrainians tried to rig the presidential election for Yanukovych. Millions of Ukrainians poured into the streets to protest the corruption which led to an election rerun.

Although Yanukovych won the election of 2010, he was kicked out for good in 2014 when he refused to sign a pro-western trade deal because Putin opposed it.

So Putin has very personal reasons to destroy Ukrainian sovereignty. Whether or not he succeeds is now up to an army of questionable capability and one confused and addled American president who may or may not know what’s going on.

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