Kremlin has plan “to install pro-Russian leadership” in Ukraine

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The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has “information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine.”

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence “deeply concerning” in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

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  • “The former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate” as part of this plan, according to the release from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

State of play: Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, following meetings in Kyiv and Berlin, where he sought to reinforce the message that there will be a “swift, severe, and united response to any form of aggression by Russia directed toward Ukraine.”

  • Blinken said Lavrov once again assured him Russia has no intention of attacking Ukraine, but added: “We’re looking at what is visible to all, and it is deeds and actions, not words, that make the difference.”

  • Blinken confirmed after the that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia’s security demands next week.

What they’re saying: “The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking,” Truss said, according to the release.

  • “Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy,” she said, adding: “As the UK and our partners have said repeatedly, any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs.”

Editor’s note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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