KYIV, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Ukrainian police on Sunday detained a group of people suspected of preparing mass riots in the capital Kyiv and other cities to cause instability as tensions rise with neighboring Russia, Ukraine’s interior minister said on Monday.
The United States and other Western countries have said Russia could be preparing for a new invasion of Ukrainian territory after massing more than 100,000 troops near the border, and Ukraine has said Russia is trying to intimidate and destabilize it.
Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy told a televised briefing that around 5,000 people were supposed to take part in riots and clashes with police in five cities in northern and central Ukraine.
“This action, which was planned in advance, was originally aimed at violent actions and organizing riots and had nothing to do with peaceful protests,” he said.
“It was … intended precisely to shake up and destabilize the situation in Ukraine.”
The minister did not say how many people had been detained or who was behind the planned unrest.
Russia, which seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and backs pro-Russian rebels in the east, has repeatedly denied planning to invade again. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Kevin Liffey)