RUSSIA is set to encircle Europe with massive war games alongside China and Iran as fears grow over a possible invasion of Ukraine.
Putin plans to hold naval drills in the Atlantic, Arctic, Mediterranean and the Pacific this month, Moscow’s Ministry of Defence announced on Thursday.
A massive manoeuvre has already started in the Gulf of Oman, south of Iran, which will continue until next Saturday, according to Bild.
Deputy Russian Defence Minister Alexander Fomin claims the purpose of the drills is to protect national interests in the oceans and to “protect the interests” of Russia and its ally Belarus.
He said: “The goal of the exercise is to fine-tune the tasks of suppressing and repelling external aggression during a defensive operation, countering terrorism and protecting the interests of the Union State (Russia and Belarus).”
The drills will be executed in two phases, with the first lasting until February 9, the Belarusian Defence Ministry said.
The announcement was made a day ahead of crunch talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva – where it is hoped tensions over Ukraine will be defused.
Blinken and Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have already made clear said any kind of aggression would have “serious consequences”.
Baerbock said Germany and others in the West would support “Ukraine with a protective shield, even if these measures should have economic consequences for us”.
Earlier today, Moscow test-fired a nuclear-capable Kalibr cruise missile from a submarine at a land-based target in the Sea of Japan.
Fears are mounting Russia could sleepwalk into a Vietnam-style war in Ukraine where it faces fierce resistance by guerrilla fighters backed by US special forces.
Putin is accused of gathering 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine – but its neighbour hopes any invasion will see Kremlin forces sucked into “killing zones” in a long and bloody conflict.
The Russian leader could order his forces to launch what he hopes would be lightning strike for a decisive victory over Ukraine.
Alarming new evidence emerged today of a huge build-up of troops and military hardware on Ukraine’s northern border – within striking distance of the capital Kiev.
The families of troops expect them to be involved in a lengthy war after being told they could be away from home for nine months.
Putin’s forces are now in Belarus less than 20 miles from Ukraine’s frontier, after a surge in troop and equipment movements in recent days from Russia’s far east.
New videos show invasion drills by Russian paratroopers ahead of the joint exercises with Belarus.