Multiple US and western government officials tell CNN that the US has intelligence that Russia has drawn up lists of current political figures that it would target for removal in the event it invades Ukraine and topples the current government in Kyiv.
Sources familiar with the intelligence say the target lists are part of Russian planning to replace the current administration in Kyiv with a more Russia-friendly government, bolstering a previous disclosure by the British government identifying pro-Moscow figures it said Russia planned to install.
The most likely outcome for those politicians and public figures whom Moscow has targeted to be ousted in the event Kyiv falls, these sources say, is jail or assassination.
"We'll see what kinds of choices these people will be given, but a lot of them will be jailed or killed," said one source familiar with the intelligence. "I think for most it will depend on how cooperative these people are when the time comes and the circumstances in which they are captured or taken."
"If it's in public" — in front of cameras — "that'll be different very different from somebody who they corner in the middle of nowhere," this person added.
CNN has not seen the underlying intelligence intercepts or the documents that name the targets or the purported collaborators and their supposed positions in a pro-Russia administration.
And for now, the threat remains contingent on invasion, even as Russia has massed between 169,000 and 190,000 personnel in and around Ukraine, including Russian-led forces in breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.
American officials have continued to escalate warnings that Russia is prepared to launch an invasion in Ukraine in the coming days — including a full-scale march on Kyiv — but they caution that they don't believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued the order yet. Putin's exact plans remain stubbornly difficult to determine. Western intelligence officials have closely watched for signs that Russia has prepared a friendly government-in-waiting as a key indicator of its intentions.
"As we've seen in the past, we expect Russia will try to force cooperation through intimidation and repression," said a separate US official. "These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, detentions, and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons."
CNN has reached out to the Ukrainian government for comment.
Foreign Policy first reported on the details of US intelligence on the Russian planning.