Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Friday that Ukraine is ready for any escalation in tensions with Russia, and that his administration had uncovered a plot for a coup in early December.
The comments come as Russia musters military units on its border with Ukraine. Moscow has dismissed growing Western claims that Russia may be preparing to invade Ukraine, instead accusing NATO of provocations.
“There is a threat today that there will be war tomorrow,” Zelenskiy told a a marathon press conference with Ukrainian and international media. “We are entirely prepared for an escalation.”
Zelenskiy did not give details of the coup plot or accuse the Russian state of involvement.
“I received information that a coup d’etat will take place in our country on Dec. 1-2,” he said.
Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian security services obtained audio recordings in which the alleged plotters — named only as “representatives” of Ukraine and Russia — discuss their plans, mentioning billionaire Rinat Akhmetov’s possible involvement.
He clarified that he believes Akhmetov, an energy tycoon whose media holdings have ramped up criticism of Zelenskiy in recent weeks, is not involved in the coup plot himself.
“Let’s just say [the plotters] are discussing with Russia Rinat Akhmetov’s participation in the coup d’état in Ukraine, which will attract $1 billion,” he said.
The Kremlin denied any involvement.
“We don’t engage in that,” Interfax quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov as telling reporters.
Separately, Zelenskiy addressed the widely reported threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine early next year.
“We have challenges not only from the Russian Federation and possible escalation — we have big internal challenges,” he said.
“We need to depend on ourselves, on our army. It is powerful,” he added.
Kiev has been at war with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine for nearly eight years in a conflict that has taken over 13,000 lives. Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funding and arming the rebels, claims Moscow denies.
Zelenskiy’s “de-oligarchization” campaign to reduce the influence of Ukraine’s wealthiest people on the country’s politics has been met with criticism from the Ukrainian elite.
AFP contributed reporting.