VLADIMIR Putin has massed more than 150,000 troops on the border with Ukraine in the region’s biggest ever military build-up, the EU’s top diplomat said today.
It came as chilling satellite images showed thousands of Russian soldiers and armoured vehicles poised to invade from a base in annexed Crimea.EU diplomat Josep Borrell warned of the ‘risk of further escalation’[/caption]
EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell warned a spark could tip the stand-off into full warfare.
He said after a meeting of foreign ministers: “It is the highest military deployment of the Russian army on the Ukrainian borders ever.
“It’s clear that its a matter of concern when you deploy a lot of troops. Well, a spark can jump here or there.
“It is more than 150,000 Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian borders and in Crimea.
“The risk of further escalation is evident.”
Mr Borrell said the build-up included field hospitals and various weaponry.
He declined to say where he got the 150,000 figure, which is higher than the 110,000 estimated by Ukraine’s Defense Minister Andriy Taran last week.
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba pleaded for new sanctions against Russia during a virtual meeting with EU counterparts.
But Mr Borrell said no new economic sanctions or expulsions of Russian diplomats were planned for the time being.
It comes after Moscow kicked out Czech embassy staff after it emerged two Russian spies behind the Salisbury novichok poisonings are also wanted for blowing up an arms depot in 2014.
Earlier today satellite images revealed a giant Russian military base in Marfivka, in Crimea.
The camp is located just 174 miles from Ukrainian territories and houses portions of Russia’s 58th army.
There are more than a thousand military vehicles on the site as well as accommodation for soldiers in rows in fenced-off areas.
Before and after pictures show the site was empty on March 15.
Pictures from the ground revealed by CIT also show rows of tents and a large number of military vehicles in the Russia’s southwestern region of Voronezh, which borders Ukraine.
As the build-up continues, Russian state TV has claimed that the takeover of Ukraine’s border region was “inevitable”.
New footage from the “propaganda” media empire RT appears to show more troops joining a potential strike force.
According to Ruslan Leviev, an open source analyst with Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), the build-up is “the greatest concentration of Russian armed forces since 2014 and 2015”.
Putin annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Since then more than 14,000 people have died in seven years of civil war between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in the disputed Donbass region.
A ceasefire has fallen apart in recent months with increasing outbursts of violence that threaten to erupt into a full-scale war.
Amid escalating tensions, British warships will also reportedly set sail for the region in May.
The UK’s deployment is to show solidarity between the Nato allies and Ukraine, the Sunday Times reported.
One Type 45 destroyer armed with anti-aircraft missiles and an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate will leave the Royal Navy’s carrier task group in the Mediterranean and head through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea, according to the report.
RAF F-35B Lightning stealth jets and Merlin submarine-hunting helicopters will stand ready on the task group’s flag ship, the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, to support the warships in the Black Sea, the report added.
An MoD spokesman said:”The UK and our international allies are unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“And as quickly as possible, with no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’.”
The Russian ambassador to the UK has warned of a “bloodbath” in Ukraine – and vowed to respond if Kiev moves troops to the Donbass region.
Andrey Kelin said Moscow had “no intention” of a large-scale military conflict despite moving tanks and ships to Ukraine’s doorstep.
Last week pictures showed Russian armoured cars painted with “invasion stripes” in Astrakhan, 350 miles from the border.
Military experts have warned that similar white markings – which help identify forces from the same side – were used by the Soviet Army during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.
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Russia has also been flexing its military muscle ahead of a planned anniversary parade on May 9 to commemorate its victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.Vladimir Putin has ordered a huge military deployment near the border with Ukraine[/caption] Forcs are massing on the Russia-Ukraine border[/caption] Soviet tanks invading Czechoslovakia in 1968 were painted with white stripe[/caption]