Russia denies allegations that an invasion and coup of Ukraine is imminent
By Sophie Boulter and Griffin Brammer, World News Editor and Staff Writer
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders responded on Monday to alleged Russian plans to overthrow the Ukrainian government. British intelligence said Saturday that Russia may install Yevgeniy Murayev as the leader of a pro-Russian puppet government in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Though Russia has denied Britain’s allegations, the Pentagon has joined foreign leaders in announcing enhanced troop and ship deployments to the region.
Over 100,000 Russian troops have gathered at the Russian-Ukrainian border, causing alarm among NATO-aligned countries. A Russian naval presence now surrounds the formerly-Ukrainian Crimean peninsula — the same peninsula that caused Russian-Ukrainian tensions in 2014.
Russian troops have also been deployed to Donbas, a pro-Russian separatist area of Ukraine.
In response, NATO member states prepared to send warships and troops to the Baltic Sea area to deter Russian aggression in the area surrounding the Baltic Sea.
U.S. officials announced on Monday that the Pentagon is set to send 8,500 troops to Europe to bolster NATO forces if necessary.
“(U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin) has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy,” U.S. Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby said.
Meanwhile, France is prepared to send troops to Romania. Spain plans to send three ships to the Black Sea and four fighter jets to Bulgaria and the Netherlands can send two F-35 fighter jets to Bulgaria. Denmark intends to send F-16 warplanes and a frigate to Lithuania.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on Monday that NATO will continue to take steps to “protect and defend” Ukraine and other allies.
“We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defense,” Stoltenberg said.
According to British intelligence documents, Murayev has been Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first choice as the next leader of Ukraine. These documents revealed no information regarding if, how or when Russia plans to install a puppet leader in Ukraine.
Murayev is the founder of both an anti-West political party known as the Nashi and a pro-Russia news network called the Nash.
Murayev denied these claims, noting that he is banned from Russia and that Russian officials have confiscated funds from his father’s Russian-based business.
Russian Defense Ministers have defended the patrolling of their troops along the Ukrainian border as “military winter drills,” with Russia refusing to back down. Russian officials stated that NATO’s supply of weapons and military training to Ukraine threatens the country’s western border.
During negotiations in Geneva, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov assured the United States that Ukraine would not be invaded and called upon the U.S. to refrain from allowing Ukraine to join NATO.
Ryabkov stated that Russia would not continue discussions with NATO if it ignored the country’s requests.
“The matter of priority is achievement of watertight, bulletproof, legally-binding guarantees,” Ryabkov said.