A Russian invasion of the Ukraine could see the biggest European conflict since World War II, says the head of the UK armed forces.
Troops and weaponry are continuing to build up on the Russian side of the border with Ukraine, leading to what is being described as a “deeply worrying” situation.
Intelligence reports have revealed that at least 90,000 Russian soldiers are now in place with heavy artillery and tanks, while reports have said that there could be as many as 175,000 personnel by early next year.
The accumulation of troops has led to fears that Russia is planning a strike on pro-West Ukraine following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The question now is how much of Ukraine would they be seeking this time.
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Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the new chief of the defence staff, said it could be the biggest battle in Europe for more than 75 years.
“It is deeply worrying,” he said.
“The significance of the worst scenarios in terms of a full invasion of Ukraine would be on a scale not seen in Europe since World War Two.”
UK defence sources have told the Daily Mail that Russia’s plan would probably be to occupy eastern Ukraine in 2022 and form a pro-Russia state.
President Vladimir Putin had a two-hour virtual summit with Joe Biden on Tuesday where the American president threatened tough economic reprisals if there was an invasion.
But Biden pulled back from promising a military response.
“That is not on the table. The idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia is not on the cards right now,” said Biden.
“I made it very clear if he invades Ukraine there will be severe consequences, economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen.”
Putin is unhappy with Ukraine’s pro-West stance and wants assurances that the country would not be allowed to join the Nato defence alliance.
Such assurances have not been forthcoming from the West and Putin has said that a “red line” would be crossed if Ukraine did try to join Nato.
There has been fighting between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces since 2014 with more than 15,000 people killed in fighting.
The UK backed Ukraine by signing a treaty last month that would allow the country to seek loans from the UK to buy naval vessels and weaponry.
As well as the build-up of traditional weaponry, Russia is also reportedly using cyber warfare to disrupt parts of eastern Europe.