Ukrainian intelligence dismantles alleged Russian-sponsored anti-vax group

A demonstrator holds an anti-vax sign with antisemetic imagery during a protest against COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. In a bid to stem contagion, Ukrainian authorities have required teachers, government employees and other workers to get fully vaccinated by Nov. 8 or face having their salary payments suspended. In addition, proof of vaccination or a negative test is now required to board planes, trains and long-distance buses. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
By Dénes Albert
2 Min Read

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced on Thursday, Nov. 18, that it has prevented a Russian-coordinated network from using anti-vaccination activists to destabilize the country.

The anti-vaccine network planned to set up its own communities inside Ukraine, with its own police and economy. The group wanted to obtain weapons and take power in several regions, according to the SBU. The intelligence service claims that evidence obtained by its investigators suggests possible financing of the group from the Russian Federation. However, no evidence was put forward to support this claim.

The leader of the anti-vaccine group and a Russian citizen have been informed that they are suspected of actions aimed at forcibly changing or overthrowing the constitutional order or the government.

Although the SBU did not publish the names of the suspects, the Ukrainian press wrote that Ostap Stakhiv, an anti-vaccination leader from Lviv, western Ukraine, was arrested on Tuesday, Nov. 16, in connection with this case, according to Jerusalem Post.

The operation comes in the context in which Russia is massing forces along its border with Ukraine. Western states fear that Moscow could prepare for an invasion of Ukraine, but Russian officials deny that the country has such intentions.

Western nations have recently signaled that they are ready to send military forces and weapons to Ukraine, which Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova recently said is a violation of the Minsk agreements, which ended fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2015.

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