UK sends 350 more troops as talks start in Ukraine stand-off

Macron meets Putin in Moscow amid Ukraine tensions

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It is understood that the 45 Commando Marines will leave cold weather training in Norway to bolster Polish forces in the country’s South East. The announcement came as French President Emmanuel Macron said he believed a deal to avoid war was possible. After holding talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin yesterday, he said: “We must protect our European brothers by proposing a new balance capable of preserving their sovereignty and peace. This must be done whilst respecting Russia and understanding the contemporary traumas of this great people and great nation.”

Britain has already sent 100 Royal Engineers to help build barriers and repair roads leading to Poland’s border with Belarus.

It follows Belarus dictator and Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko forcing thousands of migrants into Poland to destabilise the country and its European neighbours.

The UK has 150 troops based in Poland as part of a 1,000-strong, US-led battlegroup.

Mr Wallace warned that if Russia invaded Ukraine, it would face severe sanctions, isolation and “more Nato – the very things that President Putin says he doesn’t want”. Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak thanked Mr Wallace and the UK and said Britain and Poland would “do all the necessary decisions” to deter Russian aggression.

He said: “Only a decisive deterrence policy can stop any potential Russian aggression.”

The Royal Marine commandos are “the UK’s experts in operations in all extremes of environment”, the Royal Navy says.

They specialise in amphibious Arctic mountain and expeditionary warfare as well as humanitarian support. Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, has amassed 100,000 troops near the border. It wants security pledges and a promise Nato will never admit Ukraine.

Downing Street said Russian concerns were “fundamentally unfounded, as Nato is a defensive alliance at its heart”.

But it added: “We do want to work with Russia to provide diplomatic reassurance on that front.

“It is not about making concessions, as the PM and other Western leaders have said all European democracies have a right to join Nato.”

Meanwhile, Denis Pushilin, of Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, warned that his forces could seek Moscow’s aid if war broke out.

He said such a conflict would be “madness”, but added: “We do not rule out that we will be forced to turn to Russia if Ukraine, with the support of Western countries, passes a certain line.”

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