On Saturday, the British government claimed without evidence that Moscow is planning to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv “as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine.” The US was quick to back the British assertion, but a closer look makes it clear that the accusation is baseless.
The British said that Russia is considering Yevhen Murayev, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament, as a potential candidate to lead Ukraine. But Murayev does not have good relations with Moscow. He has been under Russian sanctions since 2018 and is banned from entering the country.
In comments to The Associated Press, Murayev laughed off the accusation, calling the British claim “looks ridiculous and funny.”
Western media outlets cited quotes from Murayev where he was critical of the Western influence in Ukraine as evidence he is working for Russia. “Everything that does not support the pro-Western path of development of Ukraine is automatically pro-Russian,” Murayev said.
One of Murayev’s views that the West might consider “pro-Russian” is that he is against Ukraine joining NATO. Murayev told AP that he believes “striving for NATO is tantamount to continuing the war.”
The Russian Embassy in the UK released a statement slamming the British for making the claim. The statement described Murayev as a former Ukrainian MP “that happens to be under Russian sanctions for being a threat to national security.”
The British also named four other former Ukrainian officials, accusing them of maintaining ties with Russian intelligence officials. According to The New York Times, the four officials all fled to Russia after the 2014 US-backed coup in Kyiv ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych and installed a more pro-Western government.