British troops are poised to deploy to Eastern Europe to repel any assault on Ukraine by Russia within DAYS as military chiefs consider range of options to match build-up of Moscow’s forces on the border
- Ben Wallace understood to have requested range of options from military chiefs
- Move is significant because it was expected to come only after attack on Ukraine
- Washington has asked allies, including UK, to help provide additional manpower
- Units will not deploy to Ukraine but to neighbouring Nato states as a deterrent
UK warships and fighter jets could be on the move within days to help thwart a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is understood to have requested a range of options from military chiefs in a bid to match the build-up of Moscow’s forces.
The move is significant because it was expected to come only after an attack on Ukraine.
But following Nato talks yesterday, thousands of US troops are set to be deployed to Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Washington has asked its allies, including Britain, to help provide additional manpower.
Warning shots: Russian howitzers carry out a drill on a range at the Kuzminsky range in the southern Rostov region close to Ukraine on Wednesday
Sea power: HMS Defender conducts close proximity sailing whilst on maritime operations in the Black Sea on June 17 last year
How the West could turn the screw
Russia will face Western sanctions ‘heavier than anything we’ve done before’ if it invades Ukraine, Boris Johnson has warned the Kremlin.
He said a range of hard-hitting financial deterrents were being prepared and he hoped other European countries would be willing to back them.
The United States believes there is growing convergence between allies on what measures could be taken, although the list is currently being kept under wraps to maintain the element of surprise.
Possibilities include cutting Russia out of the SWIFT financial system that moves money between global banks.
The US could block Russia from access to its currency, which would prevent firms from doing business in dollars. The White House could also ban high-tech exports to Russia, denying it access to key hardware for its warplanes or electronic gear for smartphones.
The US has long been critical of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany and could press for the taps to be turned off. President Joe Biden has said he might sanction Russian president Vladimir Putin, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has refused to rule out following suit. Mr Putin’s allies might also be hit.
RAF pilots and crews have experience of policing the region’s airspace because Typhoons from the 121 Expeditionary Air Wing spent much of 2021 in Romania on manoeuvres.
Royal Navy sailors witnessed Russian aggression last summer when HMS Defender drew enemy fire in the Black Sea off Crimea.
The units will not deploy to Ukraine but to neighbouring Nato states as a deterrent.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken last night told Russia that the White House would never agree to its call to ban Ukraine from joining Nato.
He said Washington’s ambassador to Moscow had delivered a blueprint to ease tensions and avoid a Russian invasion.
But the diplomat said there had been ‘no concessions’ on Nato membership or pulling troops out of eastern Europe – another Russian demand.
‘The ball is in their court,’ Mr Blinken said. ‘It remains up to Russia to decide how to respond. We’re ready either way.’
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would ‘not compromise’ on its open door policy for potential members.
The former Norwegian prime minister added: ‘We are hoping for, and we are working for, a good solution, de-escalation, we are also prepared for the worst.’
He suggested a Russian buildup near Ukraine’s border had taken place ‘under the disguise’ of military exercises.
‘Russia is in the process of deploying thousands of combat troops, hundreds of aircraft, 400 air defence systems and a lot of other very advanced capabilities,’ he warned.
The reinforcement of Nato forces in former Soviet bloc countries comes after intelligence signalled a spike in Russian troop numbers in border regions.
It was calculated that Mr Putin had amassed 100,000 troops in striking distance of Ukraine but this has been upgraded to more than 120,000.
The Daily Mail has learnt that Russian paratroopers are preparing for an airborne assault rather than a ground offensive. The Kremlin has been frustrated by mild weather melting the previously icy plains and creating a quagmire.
Mid-February is considered the most likely time for any action.
A Typhoon from 12 Squadron, seen returning to RAF Coningsby before landing, after completing a training exercise with the Royal Navy (file photo)
Kremlin steps up its propaganda war
By Ian Birrell in Poltava, Ukraine
The Kremlin is pumping out disinformation saying Nato troops are in Ukraine preparing to attack Russian allies and facilities.
It claims British soldiers are involved in fighting against Moscow-backed separatists in the long-running war in the Donbas region. Security experts warn the barrage of fake news, designed to harden opinion at home and spread confusion abroad, exceeds even the levels in 2014 before Moscow seized Crimea and fostered insurgencies in the Donbas.
Maria Avdeeva said the propaganda – often starting on the messaging service Telegram – showed the gravity of the Russian threat.
‘Every day, channels on Telegram come up with new “evidence” aimed at showing how Ukrainian forces alone, or with help of allies such as the US, Canada and Britain, are preparing different sorts of provocation,’ added the analyst. ‘After that, the messages migrate to the Russian mainstream media.
The Kremlin is pumping out disinformation saying Nato troops are in Ukraine preparing to attack Russian allies and facilities. Pictured: Putin chairing a meeting with Italian businessmen at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence on Wednesday
‘Kremlin propaganda creates Ukraine as an enemy, an aggressor preparing an attack on the Russian people. At the same time, the disinformation campaign creates grounds for a possible full-scale military invasion.’
Pro-Kremlin bloggers claimed on Tuesday that 150 UK special forces troops had arrived in Kramatorsk, a town close to the border with the breakaway republic of Donetsk.
‘British specialists arrived at the military airport about a week ago, local residents often see them in the city, the British do not hide their affiliation,’ wrote Semyon Pegov. The notorious blogger has 179,000 followers on the Telegram channel WarGonzo.
The same source led to an item being posted by RT, the Russian state broadcaster, that alleged: ‘We’ve received intelligence reports that Ukraine is training special groups. There are six of them. The British are directly involved with them as instructors.’
Pegov was quoted as saying the teams were planning sabotage attacks on ‘social facilities’, along with terrorist assaults on chemical plants in the breakaway zones.
Tom Tugendhat said: ‘Lies about foreign troops, or cross-border attacks, are not just told to be believed but to provide just enough excuse for those who want to side with Moscow and Putin’s aggression that their assault on Ukraine is justified’
RT claimed the units – disguised as Russian special forces and pro-Moscow militia – would film the attacks and then a bogus Ukrainian defector would tell Western media that ‘the provocations were made by Russia’. Other sources, many thought to be fronts for Russian security services, have spread incendiary stories about Western-linked ‘sabotage groups’ preparing to attack Russia and its stooges who run Donbas.
One quoted a prominent figure in the Donetsk People’s Republic saying militants tied to Western special forces had ‘arrived on the front line’. Red Spring, a Russia-based ‘information’ agency, has reported that ‘the war in Donbas is being waged not only by the regular army of Donbas but by the British SAS and Turkish specialists’.
Tom Tugendhat, Conservative chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: ‘Lies about foreign troops, or cross-border attacks, are not just told to be believed but to provide just enough excuse for those who want to side with Moscow and Putin’s aggression that their assault on Ukraine is justified.’
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