CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ukraine ablaze again as Pro-Russian rebels announce plans to boost armed forces to 100,000

 

 

A Typhoon takes off from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire at 4.30pm on Wednesday, shortly before the Russian planes were intercepted

Since the unrest in eastern Ukraine resumed, the separatists have made notable strides in clawing territory away from the government in Kiev

 

Ukraine ablaze again as Pro-Russian rebels announce plans to boost armed forces to 100,000

  • Pro-Russian separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko announces drive to swell rebels' ranks to 100,000 men
  • Not known how large rebel army currently is, but boost is likely to lead to recruitment of thousands of soldiers
  • News comes as protests broke out in Ukrainian capital Kiev over possible disbandment of volunteer battalion
  • Servicemen furious at possible scaling back of already outgunned defence forces in the east of the country
  • This morning Ukrainian troops battled to repel waves of separatists trying to surround a strategic railway hub
  • Rebel stronghold Donetsk also came under heavy, sustained shelling over the weekend, leaving 15 civillians dead

Pro-Russian rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine have announced plans to boost the size of their armed forces to 100,000 in a ominous sign for peace efforts in the war torn country.

Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of separatists in the state of Donetsk, said new mobilization plans aim to swell the rebels' ranks, although its not clear exactly how many fighters the rebels have now, nor how many able-bodied men are still willing and able to join them in rebel-held areas.

The rebels have acknowledged that some Russian citizens are fighting among their ranks, but reject Ukraine's charge that they are getting military help from Russia. Western experts say the sheer amount of heavy weapons under rebel control shows extensive help from Moscow.

News of the rebels' recruitment drive comes as fierce protests broke out in the capital Kiev, with fighters from the Aydar Ukrainian volunteer battalion burning tyres at the entrance to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry during demonstrations prevent the possible disbandment of their battalion. The volunteers are furious at the possible scaling back of Ukrainian defence forces as regime groups are already outgunned in the east of the country.

This morning Ukrainian troops battled to repel waves of Russian-backed separatists trying to surround a strategic railway hub in eastern Ukraine.

Elsewhere, the rebel stronghold of Donetsk came under heavy, sustained shelling once again. City authorities said that 15 civilians had been killed over the weekend in the fighting, while Ukraine authorities said five soldiers had been killed and 29 wounded overall in the east in the past day alone.

Anger: News of the pro-Russian rebels' recruitment drive comes as fierce protests broke out in the capital Kiev, with fighters from the Aydar Ukrainian volunteer battalion burning tyres at the entrance to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry

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Anger: News of the pro-Russian rebels' recruitment drive comes as fierce protests broke out in the capital Kiev, with fighters from the Aydar Ukrainian volunteer battalion burning tyres at the entrance to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry

Flames: The volunteers are furious at the possible disbandment of their battalion and scaling back of Ukrainian defence forces, as regime groups are already outgunned in the east of the country

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Flames: The volunteers are furious at the possible disbandment of their battalion and scaling back of Ukrainian defence forces, as regime groups are already outgunned in the east of the country

Discontent: A Ukrainian serviceman waves the national flag as volunteer fighters burn tyres at the entrance to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry

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Discontent: A Ukrainian serviceman waves the national flag as volunteer fighters burn tyres at the entrance to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry

A serviceman from the volunteer battalion 'Aydar' burns tyres during a furious protest rally in front of Ukrainian Ministry of Defense

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A serviceman from the volunteer battalion 'Aydar' burns tyres during a furious protest rally in front of Ukrainian Ministry of Defense

Demonstration: Servicemen from the Aydar battalion remove a national flag from the Ukrainian Defence Ministry building in Kiev

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Demonstration: Servicemen from the Aydar battalion remove a national flag from the Ukrainian Defence Ministry building in Kiev

Since the unrest in eastern Ukraine surged anew in early January, the separatists have made notable strides in clawing territory away from the government in Kiev.

Their main offensive is now directed at Debaltseve - a government-held railway junction once populated by 25,000 people that lies between the rebel-held cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. Almost 2,000 residents have fled in the last few days alone.

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Rebel forces have mounted multiple assaults on government positions in Debaltseve but all were repelled, a spokesman for Ukrainian military operations in the east, Andriy Lysenko, said today.

'The units that have arrived in support of our troops in Debaltseve are counterattacking and denying the enemy the opportunity to complete the encirclement,' he said.

Separatist fighters burst through Ukrainian lines last week in the village of Vuhlehirsk on the road west of Debaltseve, getting access to a ridge overlooking the highway running north from the town.

A serviceman from the volunteer battalion 'Aydar' picks up a tyre as burning rubber is extinguished during a protest rally in Kiev

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A serviceman from the volunteer battalion 'Aydar' picks up a tyre as burning rubber is extinguished during a protest rally in Kiev

A Ukrainian volunteer serviceman throws a metal sign over the gates of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence building in Kiev during a protest against the possible disbandment of his battalion

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A Ukrainian volunteer serviceman throws a metal sign over the gates of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence building in Kiev during a protest against the possible disbandment of his battalion

The Kiev demonstration came as pro-Russian rebels fighting in the east announced plans to boost the size of their armed forces to 100,000 in a ominous sign for peace efforts in the war torn country

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The Kiev demonstration came as pro-Russian rebels fighting in the east announced plans to boost the size of their armed forces to 100,000 in a ominous sign for peace efforts in the war torn country

Volunteer servicemen look at the remains of tyres that were burnt during today's anti-Defence Ministry protest in Kiev

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Volunteer servicemen look at the remains of tyres that were burnt during today's anti-Defence Ministry protest in Kiev

Fighters from the Aydar Ukrainian volunteer battalion demonstrate at the entrance to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry in Kiev this morning

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Fighters from the Aydar Ukrainian volunteer battalion demonstrate at the entrance to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry in Kiev this morning

This morning Associated Press reporters saw Ukrainian tanks shooting from open fields at the tree line on that ridge. Minutes later, the tanks rolled back onto the highway, leaving a heavy trail of mud in their wake, and taking up new field positions a few hundred yards away.

In a coordinated defensive maneuver, Ukrainian forces fired barrages from Grad multiple-rocket launchers toward the same area.

Despite government's insistence it intends to retain control of Debaltseve, rows of trenches near a bridge 15 kilometers (9 miles) to the north suggested a backup plan in case the town falls.

Meanwhile, the leader of the separatists in Donetsk, Alexander Zakharchenko, said new mobilization plans aim to swell the ranks of rebels to 100,000 fighters.

It's not clear how many fighters the rebels have now or how many able-bodied men are still available in rebel areas. Zakharchenko did not say where he aimed to find apparently tens of thousands of troops.

'While we still have time before the spring, new detachments will be able to receive military training,' Zakharchenko said. 'We expect mobilization to yield at least five additional brigades - five motorized brigades, one artillery brigade and a tank brigade.'

A woman reacts during a funeral ceremony for Ruslan Boburov, a member of self-defence battalion 'Aydar', who was killed in the fighting in Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine yesterday

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A woman reacts during a funeral ceremony for Ruslan Boburov, a member of self-defence battalion 'Aydar', who was killed in the fighting in Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine yesterday

Grief: Ukrainians attend the funeral ceremony for two servicemen from the pro-regime Aydar volunteer battalion

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Grief: Ukrainians attend the funeral ceremony for two servicemen from the pro-regime Aydar volunteer battalion

The two members of the pro-regime Aydar volunteer battalion were killed fighting in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine yesterday

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The two members of the pro-regime Aydar volunteer battalion were killed fighting in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine yesterday

Ukrainian soldiers carry the coffin bearing the body of serviceman Ruslan Baburov, who was killed fighting pro-Russian separatists

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Ukrainian soldiers carry the coffin bearing the body of serviceman Ruslan Baburov, who was killed fighting pro-Russian separatists

Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffins of two fellow members of the Aydar Ukrainian volunteers battalion, during their funeral ceremony on Independence Square in Kiev earlier today

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Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffins of two fellow members of the Aydar Ukrainian volunteers battalion, during their funeral ceremony on Independence Square in Kiev earlier today

In Budapest, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country will not provide weapons to Ukraine and supports negotiations and a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

'It is my firm belief that this conflict cannot be solved militarily,' Merkel said this morning.

She said she prefers economic sanctions by the European Union and negotiations to 'solve or at least mitigate the conflict.'

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 5,100 lives and forced 900,000 to flee since April.

This afternoon a senior U.S. administration official claimed President Barack Obama is reconsidering sending lethal assistance to Ukraine but continues to have concerns about the effectiveness of that step and the risks of a proxy war between America and Russia.

The official said Obama is specifically concerned about the besieged Ukrainian military's capacity for using high-powered, American-supplied weaponry. The president has also argued that no amount of arming the Ukrainians would put them on par with Russia's military prowess.

The official requested anonymity to speak because the person was not authorized to talk publicly about internal deliberations.

A group protesting separatist attacks in Mariupol, southern Ukraine, place symbolic tombstones  outside the Russian Embassy in Kiev

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A group protesting separatist attacks in Mariupol, southern Ukraine, place symbolic tombstones outside the Russian Embassy in Kiev

The tombstones placed outside the Russian embassy carry the names of those who lost their lives in Mariupol attack

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The tombstones placed outside the Russian embassy carry the names of those who lost their lives in Mariupol attack

The group held a protest in front of the embassy with 30 tombstones carrying the names of victims and adding 'killed by Russian occupiers'

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The group held a protest in front of the embassy with 30 tombstones carrying the names of victims and adding 'killed by Russian occupiers'

A man places flowers on one of the 30 symbolic tombstones placed outside the Russian embassy in Kiev this morning

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A man places flowers on one of the 30 symbolic tombstones placed outside the Russian embassy in Kiev this morning

The U.S. accuses Russia of supplying the pro-Kremlin separatists that are stirring instability in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. has limited its supplies to the Ukrainian military to non-lethal aid, such as gas masks and radar technology to detect incoming fire.

However, some administration officials have been pressing Obama for months to step up that assistance. With violence in eastern Ukraine on the rise in recent weeks, the official said Obama is willing to take a fresh look at supplying Ukraine with lethal aid, along with other options for calming tensions.

Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit Kiev Thursday to meet with Ukrainian officials.

Obama and European leaders have largely centered their efforts to stop Russia's advances on Ukraine on sanctions targeting Moscow's most profitable economic sectors, as well as individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sanctions, along with the plummeting price of oil, have hurt Russia's economy, but have done little to change Putin's calculus with regards to Ukraine.

Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the White House is 'constantly assessing our policies in Ukraine.'

'Although our focus remains on pursuing a solution through diplomatic means,' she said, 'we are always evaluating other options that will help create space for a negotiated solution to the crisis.'

A Ukrainian army vehicle drives through fields near the town of Debaltseve earlier today

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A Ukrainian army vehicle drives through fields near the town of Debaltseve earlier today

Ukrainian soldiers guard a check point near the town of Debaltseve this morning. Fighting today intensified between government and rebel forces for control over a key railway hub in the eastern Ukraine town

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Ukrainian soldiers guard a check point near the town of Debaltseve this morning. Fighting today intensified between government and rebel forces for control over a key railway hub in the eastern Ukraine town

As fighting ntensified between government and rebel forces in Debaltseve, separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said that he plans to mobilize enough new volunteers to bring his forces to 100,000 men

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As fighting ntensified between government and rebel forces in Debaltseve, separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said that he plans to mobilize enough new volunteers to bring his forces to 100,000 men

Since the unrest in eastern Ukraine resumed, the separatists have made notable strides in clawing territory away from the government in Kiev

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Since the unrest in eastern Ukraine resumed, the separatists have made notable strides in clawing territory away from the government in Kiev

Since the crisis between Ukraine and Russia began early last year, the U.S.-led NATO alliance has sought to strengthen the Ukrainian military's command, control, communications and computers capabilities, as well as to improve logistics and standardization, cyber defense, military career transition and the rehabilitation of injured troops.

However, NATO officials have also stressed that the alliance has no military hardware of its own. Each of the 28 member nations is free to assist Ukraine as it deems fit.

Earlier today Alexander Vershbow, NATO's top-ranking American civilian official, said that Putin's actions have been a 'game-changer in European security,' and predicted the challenge from Moscow will be long-term. He said Russia was even less predictable now than during the Cold War.

'Today, we must contend with a Russia that wants to go back to a Europe based on spheres of influence and doctrines of limited sovereignty for its neighbors, policies that are a throwback to an earlier time, a time we thought we had put behind us,' Vershbow said in a speech prepared for delivery at the 2015 Leangkollen Conference in Oslo, Norway.

The New York Times first reported the new Obama administration deliberations on lethal assistance.

 

 

Nato is getting ready to fight back against Russian aggression as it poses a ‘real and present danger’ to the Baltic States, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said yesterday.

He told of the threat to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as Vladimir Putin continues to ‘test us’ by deploying submarines and warplanes near British territory.

Warning of a new Cold War, he also said the UK must renew Britain’s nuclear capabilities as Russia steps up its own defences – but denied suggestions of an arms race.

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Visit: Defence secretary Michael Fallon (left) was speaking from Sierra Leone, where he was congratulating British troops on their work at defeating Ebola

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Visit: Defence secretary Michael Fallon (left) was speaking from Sierra Leone, where he was congratulating British troops on their work at defeating Ebola

Speaking from Sierra Leone, where he was congratulating British troops on their work at defeating Ebola, he said: ‘Putin is testing us.

‘The Russian defence spending is clearly worrying. Russia is modernising their conventional forces, they are modernising their nuclear forces and they are testing Nato so we need to respond.’

Mr Putin is as great a threat to Europe as the Islamic State, he said, adding: ‘We’ ve got to be ready for both. They are both very direct threats to Europe.’

He said he was worried that Russia could use the same subversive techniques which they used to annex Crimea in the Baltic States, including Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

He added: ‘It is a very real and present danger, he (Mr Putin) has been testing Nato all last year.

‘If you look at the number of flights, maritime activity… he flew two Russian bombers down the English Channel two weeks ago suddenly on a Wednesday morning. We had to scramble the jets very quickly to see them off.’

Russian aggression: Mr Fallon warned of the threat to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as Vladimir Putin (centre, pictured yesterday) continues to 'test us' by deploying submarines and warplanes near British territory

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Russian aggression: Mr Fallon warned of the threat to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as Vladimir Putin (centre, pictured yesterday) continues to 'test us' by deploying submarines and warplanes near British territory

In response to the fears, the UK will send troops to eight different sites across Eastern Europe and is creating a Nato ‘spearhead’ force lead by 1,000 British troops, ready to be deployed within 48 hours.

His comments come after a Russian warship was intercepted by the Royal Navy this week as it strayed close to the UK while passing through the English Channel.

SIX UKRAINIAN SOLDIERS KILLED TRYING TO WITHDRAW FROM TOWN

Six Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 100 injured as they tried to withdraw from a contested town in the east of the country, it emerged yesterday.

Deaths: Ukrainian troops on an armoured vehicle while pulling out of Debaltseve yesterday

Deaths: Ukrainian troops on an armoured vehicle while pulling out of Debaltseve yesterday

Up to 2,500 servicemen trying to leave Debaltseve came under intense fire from Russia-backed separatists, who have now raised a flag in triumph over the embattled town.

Renewed fighting threatens a fragile ceasefire brokered by European leaders on Sunday.

Germany described the onslaught as ‘a serious strain’ on the deal but Russian president Vladimir Putin called on Kiev to admit defeat.

The vessel – equipped with missiles, anti-aircraft guns and torpedoes – was monitored and escorted by a heavily-armed British frigate.

The Secretary of State said: ‘We don’t want a war with Russia.’

But asked if we could defeat Russia if there was a war, he said: ‘Nato has to be ready for any kind of aggression with Russia whatever form it takes. Nato’s getting ready.’

America have accused Russia of violating a ceasefire agreed between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders last week as fighting has raged around the key strategic rail hub of Debaltseve.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said it was ‘ironic to say the least’ that Russia had produced the motion at the same time as it was ‘backing an all-out assault’ in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said the rebels had launched five artillery strikes on Debaltseve overnight, ‘grossly violating the peace accords.’

Referring to ‘Minsk 1’, a ceasefire agreement made between Russian and the Ukraine in September which failed, Mr Fallon said: ‘I’m worried about Putin, Minsk 2 looks to be like Minsk 1.

‘There’s no effective control of the border. I’m worried about his pressure on the Baltics, the way he is testing Nato – the submarines and the aircraft.’

He said if the peace deal collapsed, then Britain will renew its economic sanctions against Russia and review the ‘non-lethal’ equipment the country has been supplying to the Ukraine.

Hammond: Putin knows there's a red line around NATO states

Mr Fallon said they were keeping a decision to arm the Ukrainians ‘under review’ – but feared it could risk escalating the conflict.

Conflict: Samantha Power (pictured), the US ambassador to the UN, said it was ‘ironic to say the least’ that Russia had produced a ceasefire motion at the same time as it was ‘backing an all-out assault’ in Ukraine

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Conflict: Samantha Power (pictured), the US ambassador to the UN, said it was ‘ironic to say the least’ that Russia had produced a ceasefire motion at the same time as it was ‘backing an all-out assault’ in Ukraine

Asked if Britain was facing another Cold War, he said: ‘It looks pretty warm to me and it’s warming up.

‘You have tanks and armour rolling across the Ukrainian border and you have an Estonian border guard who has been captured and not yet returned.

Nato has to be ready for any kind of aggression with Russia whatever form it takes. Nato’s getting ready

Michael Fallon, Defence Secretary

‘You have jets being flown up the English Channel and you have submarines in the north sea- it looks to me like it's warming up.’

He said he was ‘outraged’ by Russia flying Bear Bombers south of Bournemouth a few weeks ago, adding: ‘It is the first time since the height of the Cold War that has happened and it just shows you, you need to respond each time he does something like that.’

‘People are more worried about the defence of the UK than they have (been) for a long time’, he said, saying it would be ‘foolhardy’ to get rid of Trident at a time of heightened tensions.

Asked if there was a danger the UK was going back to a nuclear arms race with Russia, he added: ‘We are not investing in a new type of Trident, we are simply replacing the submarines that are coming to the end of their life with four new ones.’

Cameron confirms British jets escorted Russian planes

HMS Victorious: Mr Fallon said it would be 'foolhardy' to get rid of Trident at a time of heightened tensions

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HMS Victorious: Mr Fallon said it would be 'foolhardy' to get rid of Trident at a time of heightened tensions

But he said Mr Putin’s activity underlined the need for Trident, adding: ‘They are modernising their nuclear forces and we need to modernise our submarines.’

You have jets being flown up the English Channel and you have submarines in the north sea- it looks to me like it's warming up

Michael Fallon

He said it was ‘important’ that Britain had secured the 2 per cent spending of GDP on defence last year – but refused to say whether the 2 per cent Nato target would be hit following the election.

He also stressed the importance of the building up of a 5,000-strong Nato high readiness task force by 2017.

It will be led by 1,000 British personnel who would be ready to be respond to Russian aggression within 48 hours and troops will be stationed in eight different locations across Eastern Europe.

He added: ‘You’ve got the Americans retracting some of their bases now in Europe, we have to step up, which is why the commitment to the Eastern bases is so important.’

 

Russia plans to station state-of-the art missiles in its westernmost Baltic exclave and deploy nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea as part of massive war games to showcase its resurgent military power amid bitter tensions with the West over Ukraine.

The Russian military exercises this week range from the Arctic to the Pacific Ocean and involve tens of thousands of troops, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

The Iskander missiles will be sent to the Kaliningrad region that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania as part of the maneuvers, said a Defense Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to comment publicly.

FILE - In this Tuesday, May 7, 2013 file photo, Russian Iskander missiles make their way through Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military p...

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FILE - In this Tuesday, May 7, 2013 file photo, Russian Iskander missiles make their way through Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia. Russia plans to station state-of-the art missiles to its westernmost Baltic exclave and deploy nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea as part of massive war games intended to showcase the nation's resurgent military power amid bitter tensions with the West over Ukraine. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

The official also said Russia will deploy long-range, nuclear-capable Tu-22M3 bombers to Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine a year ago.

In a statement, the Defense Ministry said the Baltic Fleet, the Southern Military District and the Airborne Forces have been brought to the highest stage of combat readiness and have started moving to shooting ranges as part of the drills.

The wide-ranging exercise started Monday, when President Vladimir Putin ordered the Northern Fleet and other military forces on combat alert as part of the exercise in the Arctic. Other units in the Pacific region, southern Siberia and southwestern Russia also launched drills.

The Iskander missiles deployment to Kaliningrad reflects Moscow's readiness to raise the ante in response to NATO moves to deploy forces closer to Russia's borders. The missiles, which are capable of hitting enemy targets up to 500 kilometers (310 miles away) with high precision, can be equipped with a nuclear or a conventional warhead. From Kaliningrad, they could reach several NATO member states.

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz interpreted the move as an attempt by Russia to pressure EU nations as they consider possible new sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

"Russia is making this gesture before the European Council meeting," she said. "It is trying to influence European Council decisions concerning extending or adding new sanctions."

Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics of Latvia, which holds the EU presidency, said Tuesday he did not expect "a discussion of new sanctions or any decisions" when EU leaders meet Thursday in Brussels.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute, said beefing up forces in the Baltic exclave was a top priority for the Russian military.

Iskander missiles already had been sent briefly to Kaliningrad during December's military maneuvers, but were pulled back afterward.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme commander in Europe, has termed Russia's "threats to deploy nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles in Kaliningrad" part of what he called the Kremlin's "pattern of continuing behavior to coerce its neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe."

The Kremlin, in its turn, has voiced concern about U.S. plans to beef up its military presence near Russia's borders. Later this month, U.S. troops are holding joint exercises with forces from EU nations Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Four Polish NATO MiG-29s flew training missions in Lithuania on Monday, under the command and control of an alliance AWACS surveillance aircraft in a small corridor between Belarus and the Kaliningrad region. The mission — described as 'routine' by NATO officials — prompted the Russian military in Kaliningrad to scramble half a dozen fighter jets to monitor the exercise.

Monday's AWACS mission was flying from Oerland airbase, near Trondheim in Norway. The AWACS flights were part of efforts to reassure NATO members in eastern Europe, in particular the Baltic states, which are concerned about Russia's intentions amid the Ukrainian crisis.

Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said Tuesday that a battery of U.S. anti-aircraft Patriot missiles will be coming to Poland later this month for a major exercise. He previously said 10,000 foreign troops will be taking part in NATO exercises in Poland this year, the highest number ever.

___

Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels and David Keyton aboard a NATO AWACS plane contributed to this report.

FILE - In this June, 2001 file photo a Russian Tu-22M3 bomber takes off from an airfield somewhere at undisclosed location in Russia. Russia plans to station...

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FILE - In this June, 2001 file photo a Russian Tu-22M3 bomber takes off from an airfield somewhere at undisclosed location in Russia. Russia plans to station state-of-the art missiles to its westernmost Baltic exclave and deploy nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea as part of massive war games intended to showcase the nation's resurgent military power amid bitter tensions with the West over Ukraine. (AP Photo/File)

FILE - In this Friday, May 9, 2014 file photo Russian bombers Tu-22M3 fly in formation during a Victory Day Parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Naz...

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FILE - In this Friday, May 9, 2014 file photo Russian bombers Tu-22M3 fly in formation during a Victory Day Parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany in Moscow, Russia. Russia plans to station state-of-the art missiles to its westernmost Baltic exclave and deploy nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea as part of massive war games intended to showcase the nation's resurgent military power amid bitter tensions with the West over Ukraine. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting of the Victory Day celebrations organizing committee in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Marc...

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting of the Victory Day celebrations organizing committee in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Russia's foreign minister says the leader of North Korea is among 26 world leaders who have accepted invitations to Moscow to take part in celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool)

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Victory Day celebrations organizing committee in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 17, ...

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Victory Day celebrations organizing committee in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Russia's foreign minister says the leader of North Korea is among 26 world leaders who have accepted invitations to Moscow to take part in celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool)

FILE In this Tuesday, March 18, 2014 file photo Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a treaty for Crimea to join Russia during a signing ceremony after add...

FILE In this Tuesday, March 18, 2014 file photo Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a treaty for Crimea to join Russia during a signing ceremony after addressing the Federal Assembly in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. Russia marks one year anniversary of annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula this week. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

FILE - In this Friday, May 9, 2014 file photo Russian bombers Tu-22M3 fly in formation during a Victory Day Parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Naz...

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FILE - In this Friday, May 9, 2014 file photo Russian bombers Tu-22M3 fly in formation during a Victory Day Parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany in Moscow, Russia. Russia plans to station state-of-the art missiles to its westernmost Baltic exclave and deploy nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea as part of massive war games intended to showcase the nation's resurgent military power amid bitter tensions with the West over Ukraine. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

 

 

The new Cold War: Putin issues chilling new threat as Nato chief says tensions with Russia could end in 'all out conflict'

  • Putin unveiled ambitious military modernization program with new combat jets, missiles and other weapons
  • General Sir Adrian Bradshaw said Vladimir Putin could use 'hybrid-warfare 'to seize former Baltic states
  • He backed plans to set up Nato force integration units in eastern Europe to 'send a strong signal' to the Kremlin
  • Comments echo those by Defence Secretary who claimed Russian aggression poses as great a threat as Isis
  • Ukraine secret services accuse political aide to Vladimir Putin of directing the snipers in Kiev prior to the revolution
  • RAF jets this week scrambled to intercept two Russian bombers capable of carrying nuclear missiles off Cornwall
  • Tupolev Tu95 Bear aircraft streaked along fringes of UK airspace, prompting the deployment of two Typhoons
  • Russian TV later screens footage of mid-air contact thought to have been filmed on previous interception
  • Country 'could not cope' if Russia attacked because our defences have been 'decimated', say military chiefs
  • David Cameron defiantly dismissed the incident, saying the Russians 'are trying to make some sort of a point'
  • But former air chiefs say number of British fighter squadrons has fallen from 26 at Cold War end to just seven

Military chiefs have warned that Britain has entered a new Cold War with Russia, as Vladimir Putin threatened anyone who tried to pressure his country.

Amid growing tensions over Ukraine, Putin said ‘no one should have any illusions that it’s possible to achieve military superiority over Russia or apply any kind of pressure on it’.

Adding that his forces would always have an ‘adequate response’, he vowed to step up an ambitious military modernisation, with hundreds of new combat jets, missiles and other weapons.

His comments sparked renewed concern about the UK’s capability to cope in the event of a conflict with Russia.

Britain’s top military commander in Nato spoke of an ‘era of constant competition with Russia’, while a former RAF chief said the UK was in ‘a different sort of Cold War.’

Formidable: Putin vowed to step up an ambitious military modernisation, with hundreds of new combat jets, missiles and other weapons Despite an economic downturn caused by low oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine, Russia's military budget has risen by one-third this year

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Formidable: Putin vowed to step up an ambitious military modernisation, with hundreds of new combat jets, missiles and other weapons Despite an economic downturn caused by low oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine, Russia's military budget has risen by one-third this year

This week, RAF fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian bombers capable of carrying nuclear missiles off the Cornwall coast. Russian military planes, ships and submarines have made at least 17 incursions close to the UK since the start of 2014 as Moscow tests Western response times.

President Vladimir Putin has vowed that Russia will never yield to foreign pressure

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President Vladimir Putin has vowed that Russia will never yield to foreign pressure

General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, Nato’s deputy supreme allied commander in Europe, said tensions with Russia could become an all-out conflict. Putin could invade and seize Nato territory and change Europe’s borders, he added in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

The general said: ‘The threat from Russia and the risk it brings of miscalculation resulting in a strategic conflict, represents an existential threat to our whole being.’

He claimed Russia may use traditional Soviet tactics of ‘escalation dominance’ or hybrid warfare.

Putin could generate large-scale conventional forces at ‘very short notice’, after calculating the alliance would be too afraid of escalating violence to respond, he said.

Former RAF chief Sir Michael Graydon said there was ‘no doubt’ Europe and the Kremlin were engaged in conflict, with tensions similar to those seen in the 1980s – when the Russians would probe British air defences to work out how quickly they could respond.

‘Today it is to check our air defences and they have probably worked out we are not as sharp as we were, and it is also them saying here we are … a powerful nation,’ Sir Michael said.

He added: ‘It is a different sort of Cold War. Putin is focusing on weaknesses in the EU.

‘He feels Nato has pushed Russia in Europe and made him feel vulnerable and is seeing what he can get away with. If he sees weaknesses he will exploit it.

'There is no doubt there is a competition and conflict on.  He wants to establish Russia as another great power.’

Referring to crisis in Ukraine, the Prime Minister said the West would be ‘staunch’ in response and was prepared to pressure Moscow ‘for the long term’.

David Cameron warned there will be 'more consequences' and further sanctions for Russia if the ceasefire does not hold.

He rejected the assessment of a parliamentary committee that the UK found itself 'sleep-walking' into the crisis over Ukraine, insisting the blame for the situation lay 'squarely' with Russia and its president Mr Putin.

Speaking on a visit to Govan shipyard in Glasgow, the Prime Minister said: 'I don't accept this. The responsibility for what has happened in Ukraine lies absolutely squarely with Vladimir Putin and Russia.

'They destabilised and effectively invaded this country and have caused all the problems that have happened since.

'What Britain and countries of the European Union have done is merely to say that Ukraine should be able to choose its own future.'

He said Britain had led the way in terms of calling for Russia to be thrown out of the G8 and pushed for strong sanctions and vowed not to back down.

Escalation: According to the Kremlin-backed news channel RT, Russia today began deploying its next-generation 'Nebo-M' anti-missile radar system to counter the threat from NATO anti-ballistic missile systems in Eastern Europe

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Escalation: According to the Kremlin-backed news channel RT, Russia today began deploying its next-generation 'Nebo-M' anti-missile radar system to counter the threat from NATO anti-ballistic missile systems in Eastern Europe

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, left, said that Russian aggression poses 'as great a threat to Europe as the Islamic State' claiming Vladimir Putin was testing Nato by deploying submarines and warplanes near British territory

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Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, left, said that Russian aggression poses 'as great a threat to Europe as the Islamic State' claiming Vladimir Putin was testing Nato by deploying submarines and warplanes near British territory

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Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, left, said that Russian aggression poses 'as great a threat to Europe as the Islamic State' claiming Vladimir Putin was testing Nato by deploying submarines and warplanes near British territory

'In terms of what Britain has done, we were the first country to say that Russia should be thrown out of the G8, and Russia was thrown out of the G8. We have been the strongest adherent that we need strong sanctions in Europe and we've pushed for those, achieved those and held onto those at every single occasion.

'What we need to do now is to deliver the strongest possible message to Putin and to Russia that what has happened is unacceptable, that the ceasefires need to hold and if they don't there will be more consequences, more sanctions, more measures.

'The truth here is that we have to be clear that we're prepared to do this for the long term and that Russia should not make the mistake of thinking in any way that America, Britain, France or Germany will be divided or will be weak. We won't. We'll be staunch, we'll be strong, we'll be resolute and in the end, we'll prevail.'

Nato has agreed to set up a rapid reaction force of about 5,000 soldiers ready to move within 48 hours in case of Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

Sir Adrian said this would show Russia that an attack on any Nato member would ‘lead them to a conflict with the whole alliance’.

He said Nato units, to be built in each Eastern state, could be required to ‘support our eastern members’. He also revealed a ‘refreshed system of warnings’ to identify threats such as cyber-attacks, subversion and hostile propaganda.

Nato leaders fear disguised, irregular military action by Russia, carefully calculated to avoid triggering the alliance’s mutual defence pact.

The increasingly fragile ceasefire appeared close to breaking point amid claims by the U.S. that pro-Russian rebels had fired on Kiev forces 49 times in the last 48 hours and more than 250 times since the start of the truce on Sunday.

If a lasting peace-deal is struck it will most likely see pro-Russian separatists, which many believe effectively means Moscow, holding on to the territory they have gained.

Vladimir Putin poses with World War II veterans after a ceremony of presenting jubilee medals in honor of the 70th anniversary of the victory in the World War II to WWII veterans in the St. George Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow

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Vladimir Putin poses with World War II veterans after a ceremony of presenting jubilee medals in honor of the 70th anniversary of the victory in the World War II to WWII veterans in the St. George Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow

The General added: 'The danger that Russia might believe that the large scale conventional forces which she has shown she can generate at very short notice as we saw in the snap exercise that preceded the take-over of Crimea could in future be used not only for intimidation and coercion but potentially to seize Nato territory.

'After which the threat of escalation might be used to prevent re-establishment of territorial integrity. This use of so-called escalation dominance was of course a classic Soviet technique.'

The General's comments echo those made by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon who said that Russian aggression poses 'as great a threat to Europe as the Islamic State'.

Mr Fallon warned of the threat to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and claimed Vladimir Putin was continuing to 'test us' by deploying submarines and warplanes near British territory.

'The Russian defence spending is clearly worrying. Russia is modernising their conventional forces, they are modernising their nuclear forces and they are testing Nato so we need to respond.

'Mr Putin is as great a threat to Europe as the Islamic State', he said, adding: 'We' ve got to be ready for both. They are both very direct threats to Europe.'

Mr Fallon said he was worried that Russia could use the same subversive techniques which they used to annex Crimea in the Baltic States, including Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. 

He said: 'If you look at the number of flights, maritime activity… he flew two Russian bombers down the English Channel two weeks ago suddenly on a Wednesday morning. We had to scramble the jets very quickly to see them off.'

The Kremlin-backed Russian news channel RT reported that Russia had begun deploying its next-generation 'Nebo-M' anti-missile radar system to counter the threat from NATO anti-ballistic missile systems in Eastern Europe.

This week RAF fighters intercepted two Russian bombers skirting British airspace off the coast of Cornwall, where they were intercepted and escorted by the two RAF Typhoon fighters.

Footage shown on Russian TV of a similar incident last year shows armed RAF and Nato jets flying in close formation with the plane and provides clear views of the bomber's turboprop engines. One RAF Typhoon flies so close that the pilot can clearly be seen through the cockpit glass.

The footage emerged as former military top brass warned Britain cannot defend itself against the military threat posed by Russia.

Military chiefs said the UK 'could not cope' if Russia attacked because our defences had been 'decimated'.

Vladimir Putin, left, presents World War II veteran Valentin Gavrilov with a jubilee medal during an award ceremony in the Kremlin today

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Vladimir Putin, left, presents World War II veteran Valentin Gavrilov with a jubilee medal during an award ceremony in the Kremlin today

Top brass: Russian President Vladimir Putin  meets with newly appointed high-ranking military officers during a ceremony in the Kremlin

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Top brass: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with newly appointed high-ranking military officers during a ceremony in the Kremlin

The Russian leader listens to Lyudmila Narusova, the widow of former St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, as they take part in a flower laying ceremony at the monument to Sobchak in St. Petersburg, yesterday

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The Russian leader listens to Lyudmila Narusova, the widow of former St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, as they take part in a flower laying ceremony at the monument to Sobchak in St. Petersburg, yesterday

In a sign of the growing provocation from Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Tupolev Tu95 Bear aircraft streaked along the fringes of UK airspace, prompting the deployment of two state-of-the-art Typhoons.

David Cameron defiantly dismissed the incident, saying the Russians 'are trying to make some sort of a point, and I don't think we should dignify it with too much of a response'.

He added: 'I think what this episode demonstrates is that we do have the fast jets, the pilots, the systems in place to protect the UK.'

But former air chiefs rubbished the Prime Minister's claims, saying the number of British fighter squadrons had plunged from 26 at the end of the Cold War to just seven following heavy RAF cuts by successive governments.

Sir Michael Graydon, former head of the RAF, said: 'I very much doubt whether the UK could sustain a shooting war against Russia. We are at half the capabilities we had previously.'

Russian military planes, ships and submarines have made at least 17 incursions close to the UK since the start of last year as the increasingly truculent regime in Moscow tests Western response times.

Sir Michael added: 'They fly in these regions to check our air defences and have probably worked out we are not as sharp as we were.

'They know it is provocative and they are doing it at a time when defence in the west is pretty wet compared to where they are.'

The footage is believed to be from one of the previous occasions that Nato fighters have been sent to monitor the activities of Russian aircraft

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The footage is believed to be from one of the previous occasions that Nato fighters have been sent to monitor the activities of Russian aircraft

Moment Putin's 'Bear Bomber' is intercepted by NATO aircraft

 

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Heavily armed: The video shows the full arsenal of the Typhoon as it flies next to the bomber. The tail badge shows it comes from Lossiemouth

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Heavily armed: The video shows the full arsenal of the Typhoon as it flies next to the bomber. The tail badge shows it comes from Lossiemouth

HEAD TO HEAD: HOW THE RAF'S MOST MODERN JET COMPARES TO RUSSIA'S LONG-SERVING BOMBER OF CHOICE

Tupolev Tu-95

First flown - 1952

Length - 46metres

Wingspan - 50metres

Crew - 6-7

Loaded weight - 170,000kg

Max speed - 575mph

Range - 9,000miles

Armoury - Up to 15,000kg of missiles and bombs

Estimated cost - £20million

Number built - More than 500

Eurofighter Typhoon

First flown - 1994

Length - 15metres

Wingspan - 11metres

Crew - 1

Loaded weight - 16,000kg

Max Speed - 1,320mph

Range - 2,900miles

Armoury - Revolving cannon, 8 air-to-air missiles, laser-guided bombs

Estimated cost - £125million

Number built - 427 so far

Since 2010, the Coalition has axed 30,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen as well as hundreds of warships, fighter jets, spy planes and tanks in a bid to cut the Ministry of Defence's budget by £4.7 billion and plug a £40 billion hole in equipment spending.

Meanwhile, the Russian defence budget has grown by 33 per cent to £54billion over the past year, compared with Britain’s £36.4billion. The UK has 154,227 troops. Russia has 771,000 troops, three times more nuclear-powered submarines and 12 times the number of tanks. 

Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, who commanded Allied forces in northern Iraq in 1999, said: 'If the Russians turned up the heat, we would struggle badly.

'If Putin wanted to attack, he would not send a pair of bombers, he would send the lot and saturate our defences; we couldn't cope.

'The Typhoon is a really good aircraft but with their relatively small numbers they would be overwhelmed: the Russians would outflank us, go around us or just go through us.'

He added: 'The modern generation of politicians has grown up in absolute security – they've never felt a threat to their existence, safety or security.

'They've taken peace for granted and decimated the Armed Forces. Let's hope we don't pay the price.'

The latest incident came as Defence Secretary Michael Fallon warned that Putin posed a 'real and present danger' to three former Soviet satellites in the Baltics – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the Russian parliament's defence committee, accused Mr Fallon, 62, of 'stupidity'.

He added: 'I feel that he is a bit too old, not only in terms of his age but also in his ideas.'

Prime Minister David Cameron in Suffolk yesterday

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Defence Secretary Michael Fallon (above) said that Putin posed a 'real and present danger' to three former Soviet satellites in the Baltics

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Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg yesterday

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Tensions: Prime Minister David Cameron (left, pictured yesterday in Suffolk) defiantly dismissed the incident, which was a sign of the growing provocation from Russian president Vladimir Putin (right, pictured yesterday in St Petersburg). Defence Secretary Michael Fallon (centre) said that Putin posed a 'real and present danger' to three former Soviet satellites in the Baltics

PM: 'We have the jets and pilots to keep our country safe'

Former UK ambassador to Moscow Sir Andrew Wood BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning: 'It's a dangerous moment because Russia is a state of, in a sense, frozen anarchy. It's not a proper state.

'What they've done in Ukraine is to begin an adventure. They don't know how to end it, so there is some danger that their frustrations there will overspill into other areas.

'The Baltic states have been under pressure from Russia. But the majority of Russian-speaking citizens of those Baltic states actually do not want change. They are not emigrating to Russia. They would rather be in the EU and they would rather come to the West freely, which they do.'

The two Typhoons, armed with air-to-air missiles, were launched from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire on Wednesday after the Russian bombers were spotted at 6.30pm.

They were escorted as they flew south, then turned around and flew north past the Irish coast.

Elizabeth Quintana, of defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, said: 'We have to find a way to stop the Russians because there is a chance things could get very nasty very quickly.'

The House of Lords' EU Sub-Committee on External Affairs today accused Britain and the EU of 'sleepwalking' into the Ukraine crisis, by failing to read Russia's political ambitions.

A report said: 'There has been a strong element of 'sleepwalking' into the current crisis, with Member States being taken by surprise by events in Ukraine.'

It added: 'A loss of collective analytical capacity has weakened Member States' ability to read the political shifts in Russia and to offer an authoritative response.'

A Typhoon takes off from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire at 4.30pm on Wednesday, shortly before the Russian planes were intercepted

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A Typhoon takes off from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire at 4.30pm on Wednesday, shortly before the Russian planes were intercepted

It was THAT big! Scottish fisherman nets Russian submarine after it strayed inside British waters in the North Sea 

  • Fishing boat skipper Angus MacLeod says submarine got caught in nets
  • Incident saw his net dragged away from trawler causing £10,000 damage
  • Coastguard told him there was submarine activity in the area that day
  • MoD deny there was any UK or Nato submarine activity in the area

A fisherman told last night about the one that got away – a suspected Russian submarine which became entangled in his nets after it strayed inside British waters in the North Sea.

Angus Macleod, 46, was fishing for haddock and skate when he became convinced that a hostile vessel was caught up below his boat Aquarius.

The submarine attempted to free itself, taking the 65ft vessel and his two-ton catch with it.

Angus MacLeod (pictured) a fishing boat skipper, has lodged an incident report with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch following the unusual occurence

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Angus MacLeod (pictured) a fishing boat skipper, has lodged an incident report with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch following the unusual occurence

Mr MacLeod was told that submarines were operating in the area when the incident occurred (file picture)

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Mr MacLeod was told that submarines were operating in the area when the incident occurred (file picture)

Mr Macleod, whose account is being examined by the Marine Accident Investigation Board, said: ‘Suddenly a force beneath our boat dragged the nets from behind us to in front of us. It was very powerful because the nets were full of fish and very heavy.

‘The submarine was then ahead of Aquarius and heading on a northerly bearing towards international waters and bringing our nets along behind it. Only a submarine could have done this – it was a clear, still night and there were no other boats around.

‘Had the submarine headed for deeper waters we might have sunk with it, but I don’t want to dwell on that.

'We were eventually cut loose when the 150ft-long dog rope, which attaches the nets to the ship, wrapped itself around Aquarius’s propeller and got ripped apart. We were then able to sail back to port.’

Mr MacLeod says he suffered around £10,000 in damage and loss of earning due to the damage to his boat

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Mr MacLeod says he suffered around £10,000 in damage and loss of earning due to the damage to his boat

Mr McLeod said following the incident: 'I've been at sea for 30 years - and between the five of us there is 110 years experience - and in our collective times we have never experienced anything like that'

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Mr McLeod said following the incident: 'I've been at sea for 30 years - and between the five of us there is 110 years experience - and in our collective times we have never experienced anything like that'

Mr Macleod, a fisherman for 30 years, never saw the submarine but is convinced that such a vessel caused the incident.

It follows an upsurge in covert operations by the Russian navy in the waters surrounding the British Isles and patrols on the periphery of UK airspace by Russian aircraft.

He added he was told by the coastguard that there was no Nato submarine activity in the area where the incident took place.

The Ministry of Defence said it did not comment on submarine operations, while Foreign Office sources suggested they would consider the outcome of an MAIB investigation before making any approach to the Russian Embassy.

The incident caused damage worth £10,000 and lost fishing time. Mr Macleod added: ‘If you give me the address, then I’ll send the bill to Moscow.’

 

 

       

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