Moscow accuses UK of "disinformation" while ex-Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev rejects the idea he could be in league with Kremlin as "stupid", given he was placed under Russian sanctions in 2018.
Russia has rejected a British claim that the Kremlin is seeking to replace Ukraine's government with a pro-Moscow administration, and that former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev is a potential candidate.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Sunday dismissed the comments as "disinformation", accusing Britain and NATO of "escalating tensions" over Ukraine.
Murayev himself poured cold water on the notion that Russia wants to install him as Ukraine's leader.
"This morning I already read in all the news publications this conspiracy theory: absolutely unproven, absolutely unfounded," Murayev told Reuters news agency.
Murayev told The Associated Press news agency that the British claim "looks ridiculous and funny" and that he has been denied entry to Russia since 2018 on the grounds of being a threat to Russian security.
He said that sanction was imposed in the wake of a conflict with Viktor Medvedchuk, Ukraine's most prominent pro-Russia politician and a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The time of pro-Western and pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine is gone forever," he said in a Facebook post.
"Everything that does not support the pro-Western path of development of Ukraine is automatically pro-Russian," Murayev told The AP.
Britain's Foreign Office on Saturday also named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links with Russian intelligence services, along with Murayev who is the leader of a small party that has no seats in parliament.
Those politicians include Mykola Azarov, a former prime minister under Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president ousted in a 2014 uprising, and Yanukovych's former chief of staff, Andriy Kluyev.
"Some of these have contact with Russian intelligence officers currently involved in the planning for an attack on Ukraine," the Foreign Office said without providing evidence to back its accusations.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the information "shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking."
'Russian tool kit'
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he could not comment specifically about the British claim, but "we've been warning about just this kind of tactic for weeks."
"This is very much part of the Russian tool kit," he said in an interview on US broadcaster CNN.
"It runs the gamut from a large, conventional incursion or invasion of Ukraine to these kinds of destabilising activities in an attempt to topple the government. And it's important that people be on notice about that."
The US has mounted an aggressive campaign in recent months to unify its European allies against a new Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The White House called the UK government assessment "deeply concerning” and said it stands with the duly elected Ukrainian government.
Important discussion with Canadian Foreign Minister @melaniejoly about Russia’s unprovoked military buildup on Ukraine’s borders. We remain committed to diplomacy but are ready, in coordination with @NATO Allies and partners, to impose severe costs for further Russian aggression.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 22, 2022
Ukraine receives second batch of US weapons
Meanwhile, Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the country received a second consignment of weapons from the United States as part of defensive aid totalling $200 million.
"The second bird in Kyiv [Kiev]! More than 80 tonnes of weapons to strengthen Ukraine's defence capabilities from our friends in the USA! And this is not the end," Reznikov wrote on Twitter.
About 90 tonnes of "lethal security assistance", including ammunition, from the package approved by the US in December arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday.
READ MORE: US embassy staff families evacuate Ukraine