Ukraine President Warns of Planned Coup Involving Russians

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told a press conference on Friday that the country's security services had found evidence of a coup being planned for December with apparent help from Russian individuals.

Zelensky said that audio recordings obtained by the security services had captured plotters discussing the plan and mentioning Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man, whom the president said is not involved in the plot.

The claim comes as Russian troops have amassed along the Ukrainian border in recent weeks and both nations have engaged in combat drills amid concerns about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.

However, Zelensky did not accuse the Russian government, led by President Vladimir Putin, of being involved in the plot. He also offered little information about the specifics of the coup.

"We have challenges not only from the Russian Federation and possible escalation—we have big internal challenges," Zelensky told national and international press. "I received information that a coup d'état will take place in our country on Dec. 1-2."

Zelensky said he believed Akhmetov "is being dragged into the war against Ukraine. This will be a big mistake, because you cannot fight against your people."

While the Russian government has dismissed the suggestion that it is preparing to invade Ukraine, the U.S. and some of its NATO allies have raised concerns, with the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv issuing a statement about "concerning reports of unusual Russian military activity" on Wednesday.

"We are in full control of our borders and are fully prepared for any escalation," Zelensky said on Friday.

Zelensky has recently spoken to senior European Union officials to discuss the situation on his country's border, including European Commission President Charles Michel and outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal urged NATO to assist his country on Thursday by sending warships into the Black Sea.

"Ensuring the constant presence of maritime warships of the NATO alliance in the Black Sea would be a very strong signal," Shmyhal told POLITICO.

"In the same way, a very strong signal would be the increase of intelligence and reconnaissance flights across the Russian border, in particular in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea," the prime minister said.

Russia and Ukraine have been in a long-running conflict, with the Russian government annexing the region of Crimea in 2014 in a move that has been widely condemned by the international community.

On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian forces along Ukraine's border do not "pose a threat to anyone and should not cause concern to anyone."

Peskov also warned against the U.S. sending Ukraine more military assistance, saying it could lead "to a further aggravation of the situation on the border line."

 Volodymyr Zelensky Gives a Statement
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the German Chancellor (not pictured) give statements ahead of talks at the Chancellery on July 12, 2021 in Berlin , Germany. Zelensky has said Ukraine's security services have found evidence of a coup plot. Stefanie Loos-Pool/Getty Images