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Zelenskyy claims planned coup attempt, denies Yermak postponed Wagner operation, blames journalists: takeaways from 5-hour press marathon

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his “press marathon.” Kyiv, 26 November 2021. Photo:
Zelenskyy claims planned coup attempt, denies Yermak postponed Wagner operation, blames journalists: takeaways from 5-hour press marathon
On 26 November President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a 5-hour live press marathon, in which he accused oligarch Rinat Akhmetov of participating in a plotted coup d’état that was to take place on 1 December, denied that his Office Head Andriy Yermak gave orders to postpone the operation to detain Russian Wagner mercenaries, hurled accusations at the former intelligence chief in charge of it, and blamed journalists for doing their work. Here are the main takeaways.

Plotted coup d’état and oligarch Akhmetov

Rinat Akhmetov. Photo: TV channel “Football”

The Ukrainian president said that a coup plotted against has been planned for 1-2 December by Ukrainian and Russian actors. Moreover, the entourage of Donetsk-born oligarch Rinat Akhmetov tries to entangle him in the conspiracy, according to Zelenskyy.

“We have received information that on the first [of December] there will be a coup d’état in our country. On 1-2 December… This is not only intelligence information, but also sound records, in which representatives from Ukraine, so to speak, discuss the participation of Rinat Akhmetov in the coup in Ukraine, so to speak, with representatives of Russia, that a billion dollars would be attracted, etc,” President said.

Zelenskyy also added that in this way, Akhmetov’s entourage draws him into the war against Ukraine, her “people and the president they had elected” and invited the oligarch to his office.

Ukrainian media have published no confirmation of such a plan. Yet Buzzfeed journalist Christopher Miller tweeted, citing his sources, that the alleged coup plot was being planned by an FSB officer and three defectors of Ukraine’s Interior Ministry based in Crimea.

Earlier, Ukrainian Pravda reported, citing its sources, that relations between Zelenskyy and Akhmetov began to deteriorate after the adoption of the anti-oligarch law, the dismissal of Verkhovna Rada Speaker Dmytro Razumkov, and a change in the manner of communication between the Office and Akhmetov and his allies.

Additionally, during his press marathon, President Zelenskyy indirectly accused oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who owns a number of thermal power plants across Ukraine, of blackmailing the government by threats to start an energy crisis or cut off the household heating, supplied from his enterprises.

“You have no right to blackmail society, to blackmail the people of Ukraine. On the contrary, both the state and you should be responsible for disrupting the heating season!’ said the president, using the impolite form of “you” – “ty” – normally used in talking to friends or much younger people.

Oligarch Rinat Akhmetov was quick to respond to President Zelensky’s statements about the businessman’s involvement in the war and coup d’etat, calling them a “complete lie.”

Zelenskyy denies his Office Head postponed the Wagner operation, hurls accusations at ex-intelligence chief

Andriy Yermak. Photo:

The Capitulation Resistance Movement, a non-partisan public association of NGOs and patriotic activists, has been demanding the dismissal of Head of President’s Office Andriy Yermak, believing that he and Zelenskyy himself were behind the failure of an elaborate operation of the Ukrainian Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) in late summer 2020.

The sting operation was at its last leg: dozens of Russian mercenaries of the private military company Wagner, many of whom had fought against Ukraine in the Donbas region, were carefully selected from across Russia and gathered in Belarus. They were about to depart from Minsk on a Turkish Airlines plane only to be landed and arrested after entering the Ukrainian airspace.

Since the operation could have political implications, HUR needed its approval by President Zelenskyy, who postponed the departure of mercenaries, according to HUR Head Vasyl Burba. The sudden delay stranded the group of mercenaries at a holiday resort near Minsk up until Belarusian authorities arrested them.

Ukrainian ex-intelligence chief Vasyl Burba. Photo: Ministry of Defense

At his press marathon, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is convinced that Yermak is a “mighty man” who has performed many important operations including the return of captured Ukrainian sailors from Russia, and it is “inexpedient” to lose him only because “because Mr. Petro [Poroshenko] doesn’t like him.”

Regarding the failed sting operation, President Zelenskyy said that he had never given approval for it. He also stated that his Office Head Andriy Yermak had not given any instructions to Intelligence Directorate Head Vasyl Burba regarding postponing the operation.

“I said that this is not our operation, it is not thought out in detail, I am ready to accept any operation, even this one, when things are calculated in detail and if people wouldn’t be hurt,” said Zelenskyy, allegedly citing his conversation with then HUR Head Burba, who wanted the operated greenlit.

Zelenskyy’s motivation for not giving a go to the operation was that force-landing a Turkish airliner might spoil relations with Türkiye, and in the process “militants” aboard might hijack the plane, which might eventually lead to the death of all passengers.

“It wasn’t we who was carrying out this operation, we were entangled in it,” Zelenskyy said, either implying that Russia devised the operation to put Ukraine at odds with Türkiye or that the incompetent head of intelligence entagled him and his circle in it.

The president also said that HUR Head Vasyl Burba, an “adventurer and swindler,” being a man of former President Petro Poroshenko, who allegedly wanted to discredit Zelenskyy with this operation and spoil Ukraine’s relations with the USA. Zelenskyy hurled multiple accusations at Burba, including that Burba had offered to give away who invented the “formula of COVID and even the formula of the vaccine” to Russia and China and that Burba was a “petty person” who allegedly made a $11 mn renovation in the state residence he was living in.

Blaming journalists

Additionally, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy not only blamed journalist Yuriy Butusov of for being the first to publish HUR Head’s Burba’s account on the failed sting operation but also accused him of causing deaths in the Donbas warzone by publishing the video of the Bayraktar drone airstrike on the artillery positions of Russian-hybrid forces,

“Regarding drones. I will tell you that the deaths of people are on your conscience. After that [publication of the video], there were so many attacks and drone bombs were dropped on us,” the president said to the journalist.

Later Yuriy Butusov said on the air of RFE/RL that he is going to sue Volodymyr Zelenskyy for statements he considers untrue.

It wasn’t the only affront to Ukrainian journalists at Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s press marathon. As the president said that he hasn’t yet decided on running for his second term, he also added that Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Gordon “is jumping through hoops” to prevent Zelenskyy from a second tenure in office. It’s a “disgrace,” according to the president of Ukraine.

This tirade was a presidential reaction to Gordon’s early November words that “even if the rating of Volodymyr Zelenskyy by the end of his term would be 90%, he still has to go.”

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