The Ukrainian interior ministry says the arrested leader of a group suspected of planning a violent protest in Kyiv has “strong links” to Russian-backed rebels in the breakaway east of the country.
Speaking to CNN, Ukraine’s First Deputy Interior Minister, Eugene Yenin, said the man had been a prominent fighter in the Vostok Battalion of rebels, formed to battle government forces in 2014.
Yenin told CNN three people – all Ukrainian citizens – had so far been arrested as part of what he described as a “plot to destabilize the country”.
He said that a search for evidence was now underway, as well as interrogations, to establish a firm Russian link to the plot. But he admitted that process may be hard as “President Putin doesn’t leave a business card,” he said.
As well as the planned protest in Kyiv, outside the presidential office, Yenin told CNN similar protests had been planned in cities across the country, especially near Russian border areas.
Yenin told CNN that Russian-backed groups frequently carry out “subversive acts” in Ukraine, including criminal activity, and provoking public disorder.
But this latest plot “appears to be the most serious attempt yet to destabilize Ukraine,” Yenin told CNN.