Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a group of Russian and Ukrainian people are planning a coup against him with the support of Russia, and plans to implement it in the next few days, either December 1st or 2nd. The accusations, exposed by Zelensky on Friday during a press conference reserved for selected journalists, are allegedly based on some interceptions obtained by the Ukrainian secret services. Zelensky also said the group of conspirators would try to involve Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine and owner of a media group who has been particularly critical of the president’s actions in recent months, in the plan.
Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any kind of involvement in the alleged coup project: “Russia does not do such things. Such plans have never been made. ‘
Akhmetov, who among other things owns mines and steel mills and is the president of the football club Shakhtar Donetsk, released a statement describing Zelensky’s allegations as “absolute lies.” In his defense, he said: “I am deeply offended by this lie, regardless of the president’s motives. My position has always been and always will be explicit and clear: I support an independent, democratic and united Ukraine, which includes Crimea and my region of origin, the Donbass ”.
Zelensky did not share particular details about the coup project, did not explain why he decided to speak about it publicly and did not explain concretely how the hostile authorities have hindered or will hinder him. According to an anonymous source of Politico close to the Ukrainian president, it would have been American intelligence that provided Ukraine with information on the coup d’état project, signaling the possible involvement of one or more Ukrainian oligarchs.
Zelensky’s accusations came at a time of particular tensions between Ukraine and Russia: in recent weeks, tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have been mobilized near the border, generating fears about the possibility of an invasion of the country or its part. eastern, currently disputed between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian militias. According to the Ukrainian government, the soldiers that Russia has accumulated at the border are about 114 thousand (92 thousand on land and the rest in air and sea vehicles), and are stationed in the north, east and south of Donbass, the region where they find the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
As far as domestic politics is concerned, Zelensky is also in a complicated situation. After winning the elections in 2019, the former comedian has suffered a sharp decline in support. It has so far failed to deliver on its two main electoral promises: bringing peace to eastern Ukraine and solving the corruption problem by limiting the influence of the country’s richest people on Ukrainian economy, politics and press.
On this last aspect, however, things could change soon: this month Zelensky signed a law that has been dubbed “anti-oligarchs”. It is expected to come into effect in 2022 and provides that oligarchs – defined as very wealthy people who have industrial monopolies and newspapers and have ties to politics – cannot own media outlets, nor participate in the privatization of public resources and political life, even just by funding a party.
This law will therefore certainly affect Akhmetov, whose company System Capital Management controls 70 percent of Ukrainian energy and, among other things, the fourth most popular television channel, Ukraina, which in the 2019 elections had supported one of Zelensky’s opponents. . He has been particularly critical of the president and his party lately, including about the government’s growing control over the media, particularly after the state failed to reimburse Akhmetov’s energy company DTEK for energy produced from renewable sources.
On Friday Zelensky said that for him the criticisms coming from Ukraine are not about freedom of expression but about the law against the oligarchs. According to critics of the law, this is a populist measure, which does not really solve the problem of corruption and could be used by the president for other purposes. In particular, it is disputed that it is a commission appointed by the president that defines who is an oligarch and who is not.