Russian forces mass on Ukrainian border as Western leaders fear Putin’s move could trigger all-out war

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A member of the Ukrainian armed forces walks near the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine



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Dressed in combat gear and wielding a Kalashnikov, the Ukrainian soldier pictured on the far right stands in a makeshift trench, ready to resist Russian military might.

The soldier and his comrades may look like a group of defenders of Dad’s army, but the rise of Russian President Vladimir Putin along the Ukrainian border is seen as a deadly and serious escalation by Western leaders.

While Kiev has warned that it could be “provoked” by Russian aggression, Western nations have expressed fears that Putin’s decision will trigger all-out war, which could result in NATO allies, including the United Nations. Great Britain, in the conflict.

Images on social media showed thousands of Russian tanks, missile trucks, armored vehicles and long-range weapons transported in freight trains to Crimea and Donbass.

Scary images on social media showed thousands of Russian tanks, missile trucks, armored vehicles and long-range guns being transported on freight trains to Crimea and the border of the disputed eastern region of Ukraine’s Donbass, which has since been occupied by Russian-backed separatists. 2014.

Kiev estimates that Putin has ordered 85,000 troops in Crimea and in strategic locations between six and 40 kilometers from the Donbass border. At least six Tyulpan 2S4 self-propelled mortars – capable of firing warheads 20 km away – were filmed on flatbed trains. Dubbed the “city destroyer,” the weapon’s devastating power has demolished strongholds from Chechnya to Afghanistan.

The military build-up – the largest since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea – so alarmed Western leaders that US President Joe Biden sent two warships to the Black Sea. They will be arriving later this week.

Last night, 100 British troops inside Ukraine were concerned about the training of the country’s forces as part of Operation Orbital. The Defense Ministry said they were not in the eastern part of the country.

A member of the Ukrainian armed forces walks near the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine

A member of the Ukrainian armed forces walks near the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine

The Ukrainian government, headed by President Volodymyr Zelensky, accused Russia of planning to invade Donbass and condemned it for inciting violence between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels.

Dmitri Kozak, the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, said that members of the government in Kiev were like “children playing with matches”, adding: “Military action … would be the beginning of the end of the war. Ukraine”.

Ukrainian President yesterday met with Turkish leader Recep Erdogan in Istanbul in an effort to ease tensions. Last night Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: “We will work closely with Ukraine to monitor the situation and will continue to call on Russia to de-escalate. “

MICHAEL BURLEIGH: Injured Vladimir Putin ramps up the pressure as naked aggression threatens to reignite conflict

Vladimir Putin sends a frightening message to the world.

Because this naked aggression threatens to reignite the conflict in the region – the only major war in Europe – which began in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and supported Russian-speaking armed separatists in eastern Ukraine with troops. .

It’s no wonder Western governments are worried.

The United States has deployed two warships to the Black Sea and sent its Secretaries of Defense and State to NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

Western governments fear Vladimir Putin's actions will reignite conflict with Ukraine

Western governments fear Vladimir Putin's actions will reignite conflict with Ukraine

Western governments fear Vladimir Putin’s actions will reignite conflict with Ukraine

Around 13,000 people have already died in the conflict. Soon, it is feared, there will be thousands more deaths.

The point is, Russia has long struggled to accept that Ukraine, its vast and sprawling neighbor with whom it shares many religious and historical ties, is a sovereign state.

But there is more than Ukrainian independence at stake here. It’s part of Putin’s grand plan, which has seen him exercise his Russian military forces around the world in recent weeks.

Three Russian nuclear submarines pierced the Arctic ice cap as the Kremlin deployed a new nuclear torpedo it said could trigger a tsunami on America’s east coast.

Meanwhile, Russian fighter-bombers pulverized the remaining Isis forces in Syria’s Idlib province.

And, on March 29, NATO fighters, including the RAF typhoons, had to scramble to intercept six groups of Russian bombers in an area spanning the Baltic to the Black Sea.

Reservists from the 130th Battalion of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force participated in military exercises on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine

Reservists from the 130th Battalion of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force participated in military exercises on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine

Reservists from the 130th Battalion of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force participated in military exercises on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine

This multifaceted show of force is the quintessence of Putin. In addition to telling the world that Russia should not be disturbed, it was designed for a national audience. Photos of Russian tank carriers and troop trains feature prominently on social media.

In truth, the Russian leader has had a difficult few months. Covid-19 was a blow, forcing Putin to spend the last year in strict quarantine – hardly the image a strongman in the world wants to portray.

He only received a vaccine last month, apparently reluctant to be considered a vulnerable 68-year-old man.

All the while, he has watched an enraged opposition leader Alexei Navalny receive global media coverage after Russian authorities lock him up in a penal colony.

The Russian people are also suffering. There have been none of the pandemic support measures known to exist in the West. The economy is stagnating.

US President Joe Biden, pictured, sent two warships to the Black Sea

US President Joe Biden, pictured, sent two warships to the Black Sea

US President Joe Biden, pictured, sent two warships to the Black Sea

And to top it off, US President Joe Biden categorically dismissed the Russian leader as a mere “killer” and a man of no real importance in the new Cold War dividing the world between China and the United States.

So, what better place for an injured Putin to apply heat than in Ukraine?

It’s a characteristic of Putin, his country’s longest-serving ruler since Stalin, to behave as if he is controlling a giant gas stove on his own, raising or lowering the temperature at will.

However, Ukraine remains defiant. Last month, its young president, Volodymyr Zelensky, stripped a pro-Russian oligarch of three TV channels Putin needs to defend his cause in Ukraine.

Then Zelensky hinted that Ukraine wanted to join NATO, an initiative that would bring Western forces closer to the heart of Russia – an absolute “nyet” for Moscow. Never slow to tell scandalous lies, the Russian government has hinted that Ukraine is planning a massacre of “ethnic Russians”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine

In truth, there is no ethnic difference between Ukrainians and Russian speakers in the region. Most of the people are bilingual and all Christians.

But the Kremlin does not have time for such details.

In the meantime, the world views the region with deep concern.

Bad weather and muddy conditions make another invasion of Ukraine unlikely before May, but the threat is real enough – and deadly.

As always, Putin tells Washington and its NATO allies that they ignore Russia at their peril, even though its economy is poor.

Significantly, he calls on the West to find an urgent solution to a Ukrainian conflict that in its heart realizes that Russia can neither afford to pay – nor to lose.

This would, of course, be a resolution that would be taken on its own terms.

Michael Burleigh is Senior Fellow at LSE Ideas.

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