Intelligence-led warnings about Russia’s

Britain believes that Russia’s powerful FSB spy agency has been given the task of trying to engineer coups in Ukraine’s major cities in the immediate aftermath of any invasion launched by the Kremlin.

The assessment is that an attack would see Russia strike first against military targets, then encircle the capital, Kyiv, and possibly other major cities, with FSB saboteurs then expected to try to install pro-Russian leaderships within.

No specific evidence has been put forward to justify the two-step plan, but it is nevertheless considered by the UK to be a central invasion scenario, aimed at “regime change” in Ukraine, in which Russia would seek to avoid bloody and high-risk urban warfare after an attack on its neighbour.







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Britain and the US both believe Russia has now assembled a force capable of invading Ukraine after massing more than 135,000 troops around its borders. The UK defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said over the weekend he believed an attack was now “highly likely” and cut short a family holiday.

Both western countries have made a string of intelligence-led warnings about Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine in recent weeks, including that the Kremlin is planning “false flag” operations as a pretext for invasion, and that a group of five mostly former Ukrainian politicians have been recruited to participate in a coup.

Some have been received critically in Kyiv and elsewhere. Four of the five politicians are now based in Moscow, making their Russian ties a matter of public record, while the fifth, the former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev, said he was banned from Russia and there was “no public evidence” he was involved.

Russia denies it has any plans to attack its southern neighbour and has called western warnings “hysteria”. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has also sought to play down the likelihood of an invasion, saying on Saturday: “Right now, the people’s biggest enemy is panic.”

There is also scepticism in Ukraine that it would be possible to install any pro-Russian leadership in Kyiv and its other major cities, even in the context of a military incursion, given the broad public hostility to Moscow in the country.

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