Is Russia orchestrating a coup to remove the Ukrainian President Zelensky?

This piece is based on an article published by

On Friday the Ukrainian President Zelensky announced that “some people from Russia” together with people from the circle of Rinat Akhmetov are allegedly planning a coup against him.

It had been clear for some time that the Office of the President would try to declare all its critics “agents of the Kremlin” (and the previous government did the same).

The Ukrainian government is also trying to promote their interpretation of these events overseas – the message of course is: if the conspirators are not stopped chaos will ensue and then “Putin will attack”.

“We received information that on 1 December there will be a coup d’état in Ukraine, which will involve a billion dollars”, said Zelensky. He said that Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest oligarch, “was being dragged into this war”.

Coincidentally on this day supporters of Poroshenko and the “Movement against capitulation” intended to go under the Office of the President and demand the resignation of its head Andriy Yermak.

The American journalist Christopher Miller wrote on his Twitter account that: “The attempted coup d’etat, which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned today, was prepared by an officer of the Russian FSB and three traitors from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry who are in Crimea”.

Akhmetov’s name is mentioned but he does not seem to be involved in the conspiration. According to Miller, the people on the phone said that they “must be ready to get in touch and start cooperating with Akhmetov”.

“The specifics of the conspiracy remain a little unclear because I didn’t hear the full transcript or the original audio. But what I heard didn’t sound like a meticulous and well-thought-out plan, destabilizing Ukraine from within, exploiting current tensions between Kyiv and Moscow, Zelensky and Akhmetov. It was going to use a protest planned on Dec. 1 as cover. The idea appears to have been to bring Akhmetov people into the fold. But unclear whether that had happened.”

Over the past several weeks Western media has reported daily about the threat of yet another Russian invasion, on the ground of unusual troop movements “on the Ukrainian border”. Now Zelensky seems to have abounded the topic of Russia’s military invasion, switching to the threat of internal destabilization.

Obviously, few people in Ukraine would believe that the businessman, through some fugitive retirees from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, entered into an agreement with the Kremlin. Moreover, after all the failed similar stories of the Poroshenko era, inspired by the Ukrainian Security Services.

But apparently, Zelenskz is seriously planning to sell the story about the coup in the West, where they do not want a new Maidan and believe that this can plunge Ukraine into chaos and give Russia a reason to return Kiev under its control.

There are three reasons behind this strategy. The first is the discrediting of Akhmetov, his media and, in general, the entire opposition within the country (which is still difficult, as the information about the “coup d’etat” and how it was presented has been received with some distrust among the public).

The second is to keep Akhmetov in check and force him to make concessions.

The third is to turn Western embassies against Akhmetov. Zelensky here is trying to act according to the scheme of Poroshenko, who at one time attracted the West to his side in the fight against Kolomoisky.

Joe Biden expressed concern about Zelensky’s statements about the possibility of a coup in Ukraine.

“It worries me. Look, we support the territorial integrity of Ukraine, we support their ability to govern their state”, the US President said.

However, judging by his response, it is not clear whether Biden understood what he was asked about and what kind of “coup” people were talking about. It is possible that he was referring to the situation on the Ukrainian-Russian border.

And this already seriously prevents the President from presenting the growing political crisis as a result of “the struggle between the authorities and the oligarchs”. The version that this is resistance to Zelensky’s attempts to establish an authoritarian regime in the country looks much more convincing.

In any case, from the point of view of the West, the situation does not look as straightforward as Zelensky would like.

If the Americans come to the conclusion that he invented the coup story (or made statements based on an obviously dubious evidence base), in the eyes of the White House, Zelensky himself will turn into a factor of destabilizing Ukraine.

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