Russia moving forces to Ukrainian border, British military intelligence says
Russia continues to move forces to the border with Ukraine despite claims from Moscow that it is withdrawing, the head of British military intelligence has warned.
Lieutenant-General Sir Jim Hockenhull, head of defense intelligence, said there had been sightings of additional armored vehicles, helicopters and a field hospital heading towards the border area.
His stern warning came after NATO defense ministers, meeting in Brussels, said they had seen no evidence to support Russia’s claims that it had started to withdraw its troops. from their bases.
In a statement released by the Ministry of Defence, General Hockenhull said: “Contrary to their claims, Russia continues to build up its military capabilities near Ukraine.
“This includes sightings of additional armored vehicles, helicopters and a field hospital moving towards Ukraine’s borders. Russia has the military mass in place to lead an invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier, alliance defense ministers said they remained ‘seriously concerned’ about the Russian military build-up and again urged the Kremlin to return to the ‘path of diplomacy’ in line with its commitments international.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO was considering establishing new battlegroups in central, eastern and southeastern Europe to counter the threat from Moscow, which he described as “the new normal”.
Russia has repeatedly denied plans to attack Ukraine, although it has massed around 130,000 troops along the border with its southern neighbour.
Mr Stoltenberg said that while they welcomed signs that Moscow was ready to pursue diplomacy, NATO had seen no sign of de-escalation on the ground.
“What we see today is Russia maintaining a massive invasion force ready to attack, with top of the line capabilities from Crimea to Belarus. This is the largest concentration of forces in Europe since the Cold War,” he said.
“Moscow has made it clear that it is ready to challenge the fundamental principles that have underpinned our security for decades, and to do so using force. I regret to say that this is the new normal in Europe.
The warning came after the Russian Defense Ministry released video footage it said showed armored vehicles crossing a bridge away from Crimea, the peninsula Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
While the Western allies have made it clear that they will not intervene militarily in Ukraine – which is not a NATO member – they are looking to bolster their defenses elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Britain has already said it is doubling the number of troops in Estonia while sending 350 Royal Marine commandos to Poland.
Four more RAF Typhoon jets are heading to Cyprus to join NATO patrols over Eastern Europe while offshore patrol vessel HMS Trent will soon be joined in the eastern Mediterranean by destroyer HMS Diamond type 45.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who attended the meeting in Brussels, said: “Alongside our NATO allies, we are deploying troops and assets on land, at sea and in the air to reinforce European defenses in response to the reinforcement of Russian military forces on the Ukrainian border.
“NATO and our allies have been clear that an invasion of Ukraine would have serious consequences. De-escalation and diplomacy remain the only way out of this situation.
Boris Johnson discussed the crisis during a call with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in which they agreed an invasion of Ukraine would have “far-reaching and catastrophic consequences”.
“They agreed to continue to work closely together to seek an urgent diplomatic resolution and avert a disastrous military escalation and humanitarian crisis.” A Number 10 spokesperson said.
Prime Minister has warned Russia will face ‘very tough’ new sanctions if it invades Ukraine, but Moscow Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says UK will face reciprocal action if that happened.
“Sanctions could be imposed on any legal or natural person simply because they are Russian,” Lavrov said of the British plans at a press conference in Moscow.
Warning of a new round of “sanctions wars”, he said: “The Russian government and our parliament will not sit idle when they see such things happening in the West.”
In Ukraine, a “day of national unity” was celebrated on the day that some analysts had predicted that an invasion would take place.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address to the nation: “We can only defend our home if we remain united.”
Although no invasion has been launched, the country was hit by a cyberattack that targeted its defense ministry and banks on Tuesday.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mocked the West by suggesting an invasion could take place on Wednesday.
She added: “Even the withdrawal of a number of Russian units to their permanent duty stations after the end of the exercises was presented as a cunning maneuver intended to divert attention from the impending invasion.”