Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that Ukrainian security forces unveiled information about a coup attempt to take place in December. Speaking at a news conference on Friday, the president informed the press that the putsch had been set to take place on December 1 and said that he had audio recordings that provided evidence of the plot.
Zelensky stopped short of blaming the Russian government for the attempt. Still, he noted that some of the alleged conspirators were Russians. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine, unfriendly since the 2014 “Euromaidan” revolution that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych from power and the subsequent Russian seizure of Crimea and support for rebels in the eastern Donbass region, soured further in the spring of 2021 after Russian troops built up on the Russo-Ukrainian border, prompting fears of an invasion. Although some of Moscow’s troops were withdrawn weeks later, roughly ninety thousand Russian soldiers remain near the border—prompting vigorous activity on the Ukrainian side, including military drills and drone exercises. Zelensky argued on Friday that Kiev was prepared to escalate tensions if Moscow wished, claiming that the country could depend on its army if needed.
The Ukrainian military, which once relied heavily on neo-Nazi militias to bolster its own ranks, has improved substantially in training and tactics since the start of the war in Donbass in 2014. It has been assisted in this by billions in U.S. funding and logistical support and has gained security guarantees from NATO, although it remains formally outside that alliance. Support from NATO could, however, mean wider implications for a Russian invasion, up to and including conflict between Russia and the United States.
The Russian buildup along the Ukrainian border has prompted harsh rhetoric from Ukrainians, with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warning Moscow that it would “pay dearly” for an invasion. U.S. and NATO officials have held further consultations with Ukrainian officials on the perceived Russian threat, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to travel to Latvia and Sweden to attend meetings for NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE. Officials have indicated that both these meetings will contain a discussion of the situation along the Russo-Ukrainian border.
The Russian government denied planning a coup in Ukraine on Friday, indicating that it did not participate in putsches.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.