US officials say Russia has a list of senior Ukrainian officials it would remove in the event of an invasion US officials say Russia has a list of senior Ukrainian officials it would remove in the event of an invasion


Several American and Western government officials told CNN that the United States has information that Russia has compiled lists of current political figures that it will target for deportation in the event that it invades Ukraine and overthrows the current government. in Kyiv.

Sources close to intelligence say the target lists are part of Russian planning to replace the current administration in Kyiv with a more pro-Russian government, bolstering an earlier UK government disclosure identifying pro-Moscow figures as the Russia planned to install.

The most likely outcome for the politicians and public figures Moscow has targeted for ousting if Kiev falls, the sources say, is jail or assassination.

“We will see what kinds of choices these people will have, but many of them will be imprisoned or killed,” a source close to intelligence said. “I think for the most part it will depend on the cooperation of these people when the time comes and the circumstances in which they are captured or taken away.”

“If it’s in public” – in front of cameras – “it will be different, very different, from someone they corner in the middle of nowhere,” the person added.

CNN has not seen the underlying intelligence intercepts or documents that name the targets or alleged collaborators and their supposed positions in a pro-Russian administration.

And for now, the threat remains contingent on an invasion, even though Russia has amassed between 169,000 and 190,000 troops in and around Ukraine, including Russian-led forces in breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. ‘Ukraine.

US officials have continued to intensify warnings that Russia is ready to launch an invasion of Ukraine in the coming days – including a full-scale march on Kiev – but they warn they do not believe the Russian president Vladimir Putin issued the order yet. Putin’s exact plans remain stubbornly difficult to determine. Western intelligence officials are watching closely for signs that Russia has prepared a friendly government-in-waiting as a key indicator of its intentions.

“As we have seen in the past, we expect Russia to try to force cooperation through intimidation and repression,” another US official said. “These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, abductions/enforced disappearances, detentions and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile. in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ people.

CNN has contacted the Ukrainian government for comment.

Foreign Police reported for the first time on US intelligence details of Russian planning.

The revelation of the intelligence comes as the Biden administration has pursued a deliberate strategy of releasing as much intelligence as possible about what it knows about Russian planning on the Ukrainian border — even though it has refused to provide evidence of his claims, citing the need to protect sensitive intelligence sources and methods.

Russia’s goal in the event of an invasion, the source close to the intelligence said, would be to establish a friendly collaborating government which it could designate internationally as the legitimate government of Ukraine. And there are plenty of options to choose from, including politicians with dual nationality, pro-Moscow politicians who fled to Russia after the 2014 democratic revolution, and friendly politicians who already hold seats in Ukraine’s parliament. .

“They’re going to establish a collaborative local government very quickly,” the source said. “And they’ve identified the people who need to leave and who they want to replace them with.”

At the end of January, the British government accused Russia of seeking to replace the current Ukrainian government with a list of pro-Moscow politicians. According to the UK Foreign Office, these pro-Russian figures included former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev – the leader of a small pro-Russian party that currently holds no seats in the Ukrainian parliament – ​​and other Ukrainian politicians who allegedly links with the Russian intelligence services. .

Yet even though intelligence revealing Russian military movements on the border has been unambiguous — and largely public — Western officials still don’t know precisely what Putin’s goals and intentions are. In part, Russia has opposed Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership and demanded legally binding assurances from the alliance that it will not be allowed to join – an assurance that the NATO and the United States said they would not give. But Russia has also demanded a limit on the deployment of troops and weapons to NATO’s eastern flank, and officials increasingly believe that Putin hopes to force a broader change in the region’s security architecture. .

“Every indication we have is that they are ready to enter Ukraine, to attack Ukraine,” President Joe Biden said Thursday.

Broadly speaking, current and former intelligence officials say Putin wants to ensure a pro-Russian Ukraine. There are several ways to achieve this goal without an all-out invasion: he may try to use cyberattacks, the lingering specter of military action and other gray area tactics to destabilize the Ukrainian government from afar .

But Biden administration officials have in recent days begun to warn that the more drastic option — an attack on Ukraine’s capital — is likely.

“Russian tanks and troops will advance towards key targets that have already been identified and mapped out in detailed plans,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday in an address to the UN Security Council. “We believe those targets include the capital of Russia – the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million people.”

Biden administration officials have also stepped up warnings that Moscow could deploy a false pretense to justify an invasion of Ukraine at any time, citing an increase in Russian misrepresentations in recent days.

Blinken laid out what he described as Russia’s plan to “fabricate a pretext for its attack”.

“We don’t know exactly what form this will take,” Blinken said. “It could be a so-called ‘terrorist’ bombing inside Russia, the fabricated discovery of a mass grave, a staged drone strike on civilians or of a fake – if not a real – chemical weapons attack.”

“Then the attack is scheduled to begin,” he said.

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