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Ukraine Pres:Russia Backed Coup Planned11/27 08:56

   

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday 
claimed that his country's intelligence service has uncovered plans for a 
Russia-backed coup d'etat in the country set for next week that allegedly 
involves one of Ukraine's richest oligarchs.

   Both the oligarch and the Russian government rejected the allegations. In 
Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he is spending a holiday weekend, U.S. 
President Joe Biden expressed concern at the coup talk and renewed U.S. support 
for Ukraine's sovereignty and self-government.

   At a news conference in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, Zelenskyy said he 
received information that a coup was being planned for next Wednesday or 
Thursday. He did not give many details to back up his allegation, but pointed 
to a suspected role of Ukraine's richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov.

   The president said that Ukrainian intelligence has audio recordings of an 
alleged meeting between Russian and Ukrainian officials discussing a plan for a 
coup allegedly funded by Akhmetov, whose fortune is estimated at $7.5 billion.

   Zelenskyy refused to disclose further details about the alleged coup, saying 
only that he doesn't plan to flee the country.

   Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the allegations in comments to 
journalists in Moscow on Friday.

   "Russia had no plans to get involved," Peskov said. "Russia never does such 
things at all."

   Akhmetov called Zelenskyy's allegations "an absolute lie." "I am outraged by 
the spread of this lie, no matter what the President's motives are," Akhmetov 
said in a statement, relayed to the Associated Press by his spokeswoman Anna 
Terekhova.

   Asked about the alleged coup plans, the U.S. State Department's top official 
for European and Eurasian affairs, Karen Donfried, said: "We are in touch with 
the Ukrainian government to discuss this further, and we're working to obtain 
additional information."

   Biden told U.S. reporters he expected to talk to Putin and Zelenskyy, "in 
all probability."

   Volodymyr Fesenko, a Kyiv-based political analyst and head of the Penta 
Center think tank, told the AP that Zelenskyy targeted Akhmetov after a "proper 
information war" was waged against the president over the last two months on TV 
channels the oligarch owns.

   A mass protest in front of the president's office is also being planned for 
Dec. 1.

   The analyst pointed to great discontent among Ukrainian oligarchs, including 
Akhmetov, over a law pushed by Zelenskyy that limits their influence on 
politics.

   Fesenko called Zelenskyy's reference to Akhmetov in connection with the 
alleged coup "a pre-emptive signal" for the oligarch not to get in involved in 
"risky political ventures, cross the 'red lines' and negotiate with Moscow."

   In recent weeks, Ukrainian and Western officials have expressed concern that 
a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade 
its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has 
accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their 
own allegedly aggressive designs.

   Zelenskyy said Ukraine has full control of its borders and is ready for any 
escalation of the conflict with Russia. But he noted that the media are engaged 
in fearmongering over the possibility of such a conflict.

   He also said that the head of his office, Andriy Yermak, will soon be in 
contact with the Russian authorities at the request of the European Council 
President Charles Michel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

   "They want contacts between our administration and the Russian 
administration. I think that in the near future Yermak will contact them. We 
are absolutely not against" this, Zelenskyy said.

 
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