Ukrainians baffled by ‘Vladimir Putin’s choice of puppet’ to lead after invasion

Over the weekend, Mr Murayev posted a number of cryptic statements on Facebook which flirted with the notion of a new leadership in Ukraine, though not an explicitly Russian-led one.

“The time of pro-Western and pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine is gone forever,” he said in one post. “Ukraine needs new politicians whose policy will be based solely on the principles of the national interests of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”

When approached for comment by the Telegraph on Saturday, Mr Murayev dismissed the UK intelligence claim as “stupidity and nonsense.”

“Maybe someone wants to shut down yet another independent TV channel,” he speculated.

“As someone who has been under Russian sanctions for four years, barred from Russia as a national security threat and whose father got his assets frozen in Russia, I find it hard to comment on the Foreign Office’s statement,” he added.

He would later post a photoshopped image on Facebook of himself mocked up as James Bond, a tongue-in-cheek reference to catching the attention of British intelligence officers.

In the image, based on a poster for the 2012 film Skyfall starring Daniel Craig, a tuxedo-wearing Mr Murayev holds a pistol as he gazes enigmatically at the camera.

But for this international man of mystery, the real conundrum is how he could hold much sway in Kyiv with such a low public profile.

Additional reporting by Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Tanya Kozyreva

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