(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he had information that the country’s richest man was being dragged into an alleged Russian-backed coup planned for next month, but he dismissed the idea as not credible.
“I believe this is a setup of Rinat Akhmetov”, Zelenskiy said during a press conference in Kyiv on Friday, referring to the industrialist billionaire.
Zelenskiy said he had “certain audio recordings” in which plans for a Dec. 1 coup were being discussed between unspecified people from Ukraine and Russia.
He said they mentioned Akhmetov, who personally wasn’t taking part in the conversation, according to Zelenskiy. He stressed he didn’t believe the billionaire would get involved in the plot, as it would be a “fatal mistake” for him to take part in the “war” against the president.
Akhmetov’s press service didn’t immediately provide a comment when asked by Bloomberg. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the allegation of Russia being involved in the planned coup attempt.
“We never do things like that,” Peskov said.
Akhmetov owns the country’s largest private power utility DTEK, along with the country’s top soccer team and a raft of businesses largely based in Ukraine’s east. They include steel and iron-ore producers, a bank and insurers and a television channel, giving him outsize influence in the country of 44 million people.
In September, the country’s parliament passed a so-called “anti-oligarch” law as part of efforts to curb influence of the super-rich and clamp down on the corruption that’s plagued the eastern European nation since communism collapsed 30 years ago.
(Uldates with Kremlin spokesman’s comment in fifth and sixth paragraphs.)
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