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Russia accused Britain of spreading “disinformation and nonsense” on Sunday after Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, warned that Moscow was trying to install a puppet government in Ukraine.

“Disinformation circulated by @FCDOGovUK is yet another indication that it is the @NATO Members led by the Anglo-Saxon nations who are escalating tensions around #Ukraine,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a tweet, which was illustrated with a red “fake” stamp.  “We urge the Foreign Office to stop spreading nonsense,” it continued.

It came as Dominic Raab, the UK deputy prime minister, said Russia would face “very serious consequences” if it attempted a coup in Ukraine.

Tensions between Moscow and the West are extremely high, as Ukraine braces for a potential invasion by 100,000 Russian troops amassed at its border.

Mr Raab added that while Britain stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Ukraine, it was “extremely unlikely” that British troops would be deployed in the event of an invasion.

“It’s extremely unlikely we would do that but what we can say is we’re already willing and engaging in training programmes to support Ukrainians defending themselves, that’s absolutely right,” Mr Raab told Sky News.

Russia denies it will invade Ukraine but has imposed a series of demands, including a ban on Ukraine joining Nato, in talks on de-escalating the situation.

Also on Sunday, a presidential adviser to Ukraine said British claims of a Russian coup attempt should be taken “as seriously as possible.”  

The UK foreign ministry said it had information the Russian government was considering former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevhen Murayev as a potential candidate to head a pro-Russian leadership.

Mr Murayev, 45, is a pro-Russian politician who opposes Ukraine’s integration with the West. According to a poll by the Razumkov’s Centre think tank conducted in December 2021, he was ranked seventh among candidates for the 2024 presidential election with 6.3% support.

In the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was following “with concern” the tensions in Ukraine, and called for a day of prayer for peace next week.

“I am following with concern the rising tensions that threaten to inflict a new blow to peace in Ukraine, and call into question the security of the European continent, with even wider repercussions,” said the Pontiff.

He requested “that every political action and initiative serve human brotherhood, rather than partisan interests”.

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