Nov. 26 (UPI) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday Russia is trying to recruit mining and steel tycoon Rinat Akhmetov in a planned coup against him early next week.
In a news conference with local and international media, Zelensky said Russia has planned the coup for Dec. 1-2 but offered no other details. The Ukrainian president had previously started a campaign to lessen the influence of oligarchs like Akhmetov over certain sectors of the economy.
“I believe [Akhmetov] is being dragged into the war against Ukraine,” Zelensky said, according to the Washington Post. “This will be a big mistake, because it is impossible to fight against the people, against the president elected by the people of Ukraine.”
Moscow spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected Zelensky’s claims of a planned coup.
“Russia has never had any plans to take part. Russia generally never engages in such matters,” Peskov said, according to Russian state-run media TASS.
Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called out Russia for placing “large and unusual concentrations of Russian forces close to Ukraine’s border” and demanded it stop “any further provocation or aggressive actions.”
Zelensky said then that nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers had gathered in Crimea near the Ukrainian border.
“We don’t have clarity into Moscow’s intentions, but we do know its playbook,” Blinken said on Nov. 10, according to The New York Times. “Any escalatory or aggressive actions would be of great concern to the United States.”