World on the brink: Fears of full-scale war explode as NATO puts battlegroups on standby

Boris Johnson issues warning to Russia about invading Ukraine

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Speaking today (Monday) in Brussels, Jens Stoltenberg said: “We are considering to further enhance our presence in the eastern part of the alliance, this could include the deployment of additional NATO battlegroups.” At present, NATO has around 4,000 troops in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

These are backed by tanks, air defences and surveillance units.

There have been mounting tensions between Russia and the West in recent months, following a build-up of troops on the border with Ukraine.

There are now an estimated 100,000 Russian troops on the border, stoking fears of an invasion.

Last week, Britain announced it was flying over anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

However, Downing Street said there were no plans to send British ground troops to Ukraine.

Welcoming the deployments made by the UK and other NATO members, Mr Stoltenberg said the alliance would “continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the alliance.”

Denmark is sending a frigate to the Baltic Sea and is set to deploy four F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania. Spain is sending ships to join NATO naval forces and is considering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, NATO said that France has expressed “readiness” to deploy troops to Romania. The Netherlands is sending two F-35 fighter aircraft to Bulgaria from April, and is putting a ship and land-based units on standby for NATO’s Response Force.

It added: “The United States has also made clear that it is considering increasing its military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.”

Speaking to reporters earlier today, Boris Johnson said that invading Ukraine would be “a painful, violent and bloody business” for Russia.

The Prime Minister added: “I think it’s very important that people in Russia understand that this could be a new Chechnya.”

Mr Johnson said the situation was “pretty gloomy”, but cautioned that war was not inevitable.

In the meantime, the UK was “leading on creating a package of economic sanctions”, he said.

Russia has sought to downplay the possibility of a ground invasion, despite British intelligence suggesting there were 60 Russian battlegroups on the border.

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, told Reuters that the West was participating in “hysteria”.

He added: “As for specific actions, we see statements by the North Atlantic Alliance about reinforcement, pulling forces and resources to the eastern flank. All this leads to the fact that tensions are growing.

“This is not happening because of what we, Russia, are doing. This is all happening because of what NATO and the U.S. are doing and due to the information they are spreading.”

The US has already ordered the families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave, and the UK has said that about half the British diplomats working in the UK’s embassy would return home.

On Saturday, the Government announced that it had intelligence that indicates that Russia was already preparing to install a new leader in Kyiv in the event of an invasion.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy.

“As the UK and our partners have said repeatedly, any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs.”

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