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In a latest move by Washington to counter Moscow’s military build up on the border of Ukraine, at least 8,500 US troops are readying themselves to be deployed. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said no decision whether to deploy or not had been made yet.
The troops could be called upon in case of an escalation between Ukraine and Russia.
Mr Kirby said any deployment would separate from Intra-European movements of US troops to NATO’s eastern flank in a bid to reassure nervous allies.
This comes as defence chiefs finalise plans to bring home around 1,000 Britons from Ukraine amid fears of a Russian invasion.
Officials are considering sending troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade to mount an evacuation of UK nationals.
Tensions reached boiling point last year after Russia amassed more troops near the contested borders.
Since 2014, more than 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
According to reports Moscow’s commanders have ordered large amounts of multi-launch rocket systems to be transported into Belarus which could be used for an invasion.
In September, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned an all-out war with Russia could be a “possibility”.
Last week, it was reported a special group of SAS soldiers could be placed within Ukraine acting as military advisers.
One security source told the Daily Mirror: “British intelligence is watching developments all over Ukraine but in particular in Crimea, which is occupied by Russian forces.
“All of the other manoeuvres may have been a ruse to deflect from Crimea and Putin may want to expand it towards contested Donbas.”
It is believed Russian President Vladimir Putin is keen to stop Ukraine from becoming a NATO member.
This came after UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced Britain will supply defensive weapon systems to Ukraine.
Mr Wallace told MPs: “In light of the increasingly threatening behaviour from Russia and in addition to our current support, the UK is providing a new security assistance package to increase Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.
“We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light anti-armour defensive weapons systems.
“A small number of UK personnel will provide early-stage training for a short period of time, within the framework of Operation Orbital, before returning to the United Kingdom.
“This security assistance package complements the training capabilities Ukraine already has and those that are also being provided by the UK and other allies in Europe and the United States.
“Ukraine has every right to defend its borders and this new package of aid further enhances its ability to do so.
“Let me be clear: this support is for short-range and clearly defensive weapon capabilities; they are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia; they are to use in self-defence.”
The Defence Secretary said any invasion by Russia would be viewed as an “occupation”.
He added: “I fear it could lead to a huge loss of life on all sides.
“The current difficult relationship with the Kremlin is not the one we wish it to have with the United Kingdom, it does not have to be this way.”
He went on to stress things in common between the two countries.
He said: “We’re ready to discuss issues related to mutual security concerns and engage constructively in good faith.”
More to follow…
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