Ukraine’s president alleges attempted coup by the country’s richest man – Politico

KIEV – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that there is a risk of a Russian-backed coup against him next week involving one of Ukraine’s leading oligarchs – Rinat Akhmetov.

Zelensky laid the charges at a quickly scheduled news conference on Friday, saying he had recordings of people from Akhmedov’s circle, in Ukraine and Russia, discussing a billion-dollar coup.

“We have not only intelligence, but also vocal objections, as representatives of Ukraine are discussing, so to speak, with representatives of Russia Rinat Akhmetov’s participation in the coup in Ukraine,” the president said. She said.

Zelensky did not mention any other names and said that Akhmedov was “dragged into a war against the Ukrainian state”.

Akhmedov described the allegations as an “absolute lie”.

“I am outraged by the spread of this lie, whatever the president’s motives,” he said in a statement. “I will continue to defend a free Ukraine, a free economy, democracy and freedom of expression.”

A person close to Zelensky said that the United States has provided Ukraine with intelligence in recent weeks indicating that there will be an “internal destabilization effort”, with the possible involvement of one or more Ukrainian oligarchs.

“From a Ukrainian point of view, it would be very wise to stop all internal political games,” the chancellor said. “At least until we understand the nature of the Russian threat.”

Zelensky’s claim comes in the context of heightened tensions with Russia. The United States and NATO warn that Moscow may be planning a full-fledged invasion as it builds up its forces on the war-torn eastern frontier in Ukraine and in Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden said he would “probably” talk to Zelensky and Russian leader Vladimir Putin about the coup allegations. He voiced US objections to talk of “anything approaching from a distance” about a coup. “I am concerned,” Biden told reporters. We support the territorial integrity of Ukraine. We support Ukraine’s ability to govern itself.”

Moscow denied any involvement in a coup plot. “Russia never had any plans to participate,” She said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

inner struggle

Inside, Zelensky battles Akhmedov, the country’s richest man, with media freedom at stake.

After his decisive victory in the 2019 elections, Zelensky saw his turnout fall to an all-time low among frustrated Ukrainians. One of his unfulfilled electoral promises was to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, immersed in war With Russian agents since 2014.

And his other promise – to stamp out corruption and break the stranglehold that the wealthy have on Ukraine’s economy, politics, and media – also saw little progress, until the so-called anti-oligarchy bill was signed in early November.

Set to take effect next year, the law defines an oligarchy using several criteria including wealth, political activity, industrial monopoly and media assets. Those who meet the definition will be barred from owning the media and participating in privatizations and political activities, including the financing of political parties.

With a net worth of more than $10 billion, according to Bloomberg, Akhmetov not only meets the criteria for wealth. His holding company System Capital Management owns DTEK, which controls 70 percent of Ukraine’s energy production, as well as telecom and media companies including the country’s fourth most popular TV channel, Ukraina. The other three are also owned by oligarchs, including Igor Kolomoisky, who is widely credited with electing Zelensky, in part through his 1+1 TV channel.

Akhmetov’s Ukraina channel backed a Zelenskiy opponent in the 2019 elections. Ukraina’s coverage of criticism of Zelensky and his party, Servant of the People, has increasingly grown since the government failed to pay DTEK Green Energy purchased by government companies.

“I think the DTEK media is not about freedom of expression,” Zelensky said at a news conference on Friday. “I think this is a battle with me against one simple law of removing the colligarchy.”

Critics of the anti-oligarchy law say it is populist, does nothing to address the systemic causes of corruption and can easily be manipulated in the president’s favour. It states that the final decision on who the “oligarch” is is made by the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), which is appointed directly by the president.

Freedom of expression concerns

Earlier this year, the National Council for Social Democracy imposed sanctions on other wealthy media owners, including Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian politician whose TV channels were shut down for allegedly promoting anti-Ukrainian propaganda. While the move was welcomed by many as a last-ditch treatment of Russian influence in Ukrainian media, there were also concerns that it set a dangerous precedent for free speech.

There is Other indications Zelensky’s government is strengthening its control over the media.

Suspilne, the country’s public radio, is constantly underfunded and have faced government pressure. This month, the Kiev Post, Ukraine’s independent English-language newspaper, suddenly shut down In the face of what its employees say is the increasing pressure to comply.

Journalists criticized Zelensky’s press conference on Friday because, instead of an open accreditation process, only invited media representatives could attend.

Zelensky also touched on the threat of a Russian invasion during the conference, saying that Ukraine was “fully prepared for escalation” but his government was ready to talk with the Kremlin.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke Friday with Andrei Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration.

They discussed their common concerns about Russia’s ongoing military activities near the Ukrainian border and its harsh rhetoric toward Ukraine. American statement said.

Russia accuses Ukraine and the West of provoking the crisis by intensifying military activity and Western support for the Ukrainian army.

Paul McCleary attributed the reporting from Washington.

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