Ukraine Says It Foiled Another Russian Plot to Topple the Government

Ukraine’s security service said on Monday that it had foiled yet another Russian plot to stir public unrest and then use the ensuing turmoil to topple the government, outlining a familiar tactic that Kyiv claims has been employed in a string of coup attempts in recent years.

The Ukrainian domestic intelligence agency, the S.B.U., said that it had discovered a “group” of conspirators it accused of planning to spark a riot, seize the Parliament building and replace the nation’s military and civilian leadership. Four people have been arrested and charged, according to the authorities.

While offering little detail on how such an ambitious plan could have succeeded, officials said it was a reminder that more than two years after launching a full-scale invasion of the country, the Kremlin remained determined to bring down President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government by any means.

On the battlefield, Russia continues to send tens of thousands of new soldiers to the front to replace those killed in the hopes of exhausting Ukraine’s military and Kyiv’s Western backers. At the same time, Russia’s relentless bombardment of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure is designed, in part, to throttle the economy and undermine the state’s ability to function.

The Kremlin has also long been directing more covert campaigns aimed at destabilizing the government in Kyiv, according to Ukrainian and Western officials, in some cases attempting to stir discontent with disinformation.

The plot outlined by Ukraine’s domestic intelligence agency and prosecutors on Monday fit squarely in that pattern.

It was meant to start with a riot, according to Ukrainian officials.

The organizers — described as agents working on behalf of Russia — were planning to hold “an allegedly peaceful gathering in the center of the capital,” said Artem Dekhtyarenko, the spokesman for the S.B.U.

Most of those who gathered would be “in the dark” about the plot, he said. Once there were several thousand people, Mr. Dekhtyarenko said, the organizers “planned to disseminate information about the unrest in Kyiv through domestic and foreign information resources.”

“In this way, they hoped to undermine the sociopolitical situation inside our country, which would play in favor of Russia,” he said in a statement.

The accused also planned to use the moment “to announce the removal from power of the current military and political leadership of Ukraine,” he added, saying that they hoped to “seize” the Parliament building “and block its work.”

Storming and then securing heavily guarded government buildings would have likely proven challenging, raising questions about the viability of the plot and how far along it was. But officials said that beyond the specifics, the plot was meant to create an atmosphere of chaos that could undermine faith in the government.

Ukraine’s chief prosecutor said four men had been charged and served notices of suspicion of treason, with two remanded in custody ahead of trial as a “precaution.”

In keeping with state policy, the names of the accused were not made public. The prosecutor’s office said the organizer was “the head of a public union who had already had experience of participating in unsuccessful provocative events.”

“He rented a hall in Kyiv that could accommodate 2,000 people, and also searched for military and armed guards from private structures to carry out the takeover” of the Parliament, the prosecutor’s office said.

Without knowing the identities of the suspects, it was not possible to reach out to lawyers or other representatives for comment.

However, the plot bore similarities to a string of other attempts that the Ukrainian security services have reported since even before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

For instance, in November 2021, Mr. Zelensky told a news conference that his security services had thwarted a plot to overthrow his government.

Just a month before the Kremlin ordered the full-scale invasion, the British government said that Moscow was developing plans to orchestrate a coup in Ukraine to install a pro-Russian leader.

At the time, intelligence officials said they were making their concerns about Russian meddling in the internal affairs of Ukraine public to try to head off further escalation.

That did not work.

When Russian forces poured into Ukraine in February 2022, one of their first missions, according to Ukrainian and Western officials, was to assassinate Mr. Zelensky.

Those efforts to decapitate his government failed. But Mr. Zelensky said earlier this year that his security services had told him of more than 10 attempts on his life since then.

In May, Ukraine security services arrested two Ukrainian colonels and accused them of participating in an elaborate plan to kill the president and other top leaders.

The plot outlined on Monday was in keeping with a broader operation Mr. Zelensky warned about in November, when he said Moscow was stepping up its clandestine campaign to sow discord through disinformation and covert actions.

The campaign was given the code name “Maidan 3,” according to Mr. Zelensky. That is a reference to the central square in Kyiv, which was the site of protests in 2004 and a 2014 uprising that led to the ouster of the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych.

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