Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters on Friday he recently received intelligence that Russian-backed actors are planning a “coup d’etat in Ukraine” to overthrow his presidency, according to the state-owned Ukrinform news agency.
Zelensky told reporters on November 26 that Ukrainian security services had briefed him about an alleged attempt to topple Ukraine’s government starting on December 1. He said Kyiv had both intelligence and audio intercepts proving the efforts to plan a coup in Ukraine. President Zelensky detailed the intercepted plan during an in-person news conference in Kyiv on Friday.
“I received information that on the 1st (of December) there will be a coup d’etat in our country,” he said.
“I think this is important information, December 1-2 … it’s not only intelligence that we have, it’s also audio intercepts, where representatives of Ukraine, so to speak, discuss with representatives of Russia Rinat Akhmetov’s participation in the coup in Ukraine,” the leader revealed.
“They suggest a billion dollars will be allocated, and so on. I believe that this is a setup targeting businessman Rinat Akhmetov,” the president opined.
Rinat Akhmetov is a Ukrainian industrialist with an estimated net worth of $10.9 billion. Akhmetov currently enjoys a ranking of 216 on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, which is a list of the world’s 500 richest people updated daily.
“Rinat Akhmetov’s holding company, System Capital Management, oversees his stakes in a variety of mostly industrial businesses,” according to Forbes.
“He owns a stake of mining and steel firm Metinvest Group, one of the largest private companies in Ukraine,” the U.S. business magazine details of Akhmetov.
The tycoon is likewise “invested in energy through DTEK, a firm with coal mines, thermal power generation and Ukraine’s largest wind farm,” according to the publication. In addition, Akhmetov “owns companies in telecom, engineering, finance, real estate, transportation and retail.”
Forbes describes Akhmetov as the “son of a coal miner” who got his start in business by “buying up mining assets during the 1990s privatization era in Ukraine.”
Ukraine became an independent state in 1991 upon the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), of which Ukraine was a member. Ukraine’s government has, in recent years, “sought to decrease the influence of oligarchs, who gained control of state assets and seized much of the former Soviet republic’s wealth after it gained independence in 1991,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted on November 26.
Zelensky’s administration has spearheaded this effort to wrest power from Ukrainian oligarchs since he was elected Ukraine’s top leader in May 2019, according to WSJ. The reform attempt has caused “rocky relations” between Zelensky and Akhmetov, the business-focused U.S. newspaper observed.
“Mr. Zelensky said he invited Mr. Akhmetov, a coal, steel and media magnate, to meet and be briefed on the matter, but the Ukrainian president declined to reveal further details to reporters,” WSJ noted on November 26, referring to the alleged coup attempt.
“Mr. Akhmetov’s spokespeople didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations made against him by Mr. Zelensky,” the publication added.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on November 26 Russia “has never nurtured any plans to participate in the plotting of a state coup in Ukraine as claimed by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.”
“Russia has never had any plans to take part. Russia generally never engages in such matters,” Peskov said at a regular press conference on Friday, as quoted by TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency.