(Headline USA) Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday rejected a British claim that the Kremlin is seeking to replace Ukraine’s government with a pro-Moscow administration, and that former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev is a potential candidate.
Britain’s Foreign Office on Saturday also named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links with Russian intelligence services, along with Murayev who is the leader of a small party that has no seats in parliament.
Those politicians include Mykola Azarov, a former prime minister under Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president ousted in a 2014 uprising, and Yanukovych’s former chief of staff, Andriy Kluyev.
“Some of these have contact with Russian intelligence officers currently involved in the planning for an attack on Ukraine,” the Foreign Office said.
Murayev told The Associated Press that the British claim “looks ridiculous and funny” and that he has been denied entry to Russia since 2018 on the grounds of being a threat to Russian security. He said that sanction was imposed in the wake of a conflict with Viktor Medvedchuk, Ukraine’s most prominent pro-Russia politician and a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Murayev’s Nashi party—whose name echoes the former Russian youth movement that supported Putin—is regarded as sympathetic to Russia, but Murayev on Sunday pushed back on characterizing it as pro-Russia.
“The time of pro-Western and pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine is gone forever,” he said in a Facebook post.
“Everything that does not support the pro-Western path of development of Ukraine is automatically pro-Russian,” Murayev told The AP.
He also said he supports Ukraine having neutral status and believes that “striving for NATO is tantamount to continuing the war.” Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists have been fighting in the country’s east since 2014, a conflict that has killed more than 14,000.
Ukrainian political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko described Murayev as a significant figure in Ukraine’s pro-Russia camp, but added: “Murayev is a second-place player. I don’t think Murayev has direct connections in the Kremlin.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.