According to the British assessment, Russian planners were considering installing a former member of the Ukrainian Parliament named Yevgeniy Murayev as leader of a pro-Kremlin puppet government in Kyiv. Once a member of the Russian-backed Party of Regions, Mr. Murayev is now head of a political party called Nashi, part of a constellation of opposition parties opposed to Ukraine’s pro-Western parties. Last September, a massive banner with his photograph was hung on the facade of Federation of Trade Unions building on Kyiv’s Independence Square with the slogan “This is our Land.”
In a recent Facebook post he accused the current government in Kyiv of selling out to the United States, which he said was whipping up war hysteria to reap financial rewards from the sale of weapons.
“The hawks are looking forward to a feast,” he wrote.
It is not clear from the British statement whether Russia had informed Mr. Murayev that he was being considered as a possible future leader of Ukraine. But after a journalist with a British newspaper tipped him off about the revelations, he posted a photo of himself to Facebook posing as James Bond with the comment, “Details tomorrow.”
Russian spies maintain extensive networks of agents in Ukraine and contacts between Ukrainian officials and intelligence officers are not uncommon, according to Ukrainian and Western security officials
All four of the other Ukrainians named in the communiqué once held senior positions in the Ukrainian government and worked in proximity to Paul Manafort, former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign manager, when he worked as a political adviser to Ukraine’s former Russian-backed president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. After Mr. Yanukovych’s government fell in 2014, they fled to Russia.
One of those named, Vladimir Sivkovich, was among four Ukrainians targeted last week with sanctions by the United States Treasury Department for their ties to Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine.
If the British assessment is accurate, it would not be the first time the Kremlin tried to install a pro-Russian leader or interfere in Ukraine’s government. In 2004, Russian efforts to fraudulently sway a presidential election set off what became known as the Orange Revolution, which forced a redo election that led to the defeat of Mr. Yanukovych, who was the Kremlin’s favored candidate.