Putin stokes invasion fears by staging huge live-firing tank drills with 1,000 troops on Ukraine border

 RUSSIA has staged huge live-firing drills with more than 1,000 tanks near its border with Ukraine.

The latest show of strength by Vladimir Putin comes amid high tension between Moscow and the West amid fears the Kremlin is planning to invade its neighbour.

Russia is carrying out live tank drills near its border with Ukraine
Russia is carrying out live tank drills near its border with Ukraine

The latest ground battle exercises were staged around 30 miles from the border from the pro-Moscow rebel-held Luhansk region of Ukraine.

Video and pictures show soldiers from Russia's southern military district firing high-powered weaponry at the Kadamovsky firing range in the Rostov region.

On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Putin in a phone call of his “deep concern” about the Russian military build-up close to Ukraine, and that “serious consequences” will follow in the event of invasion.

In the drills, soldiers performed fire training in the field with a variety of high-powered weaponry including automatic grenade launchers, said TV Zvezda, run by the Russian defence ministry.

More than 100 crews of BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles equipped with 100-mm guns performed exercises of live firing from short stops and in motion at distances up to 1,000 metres, according to the Russians.

Motorised riflemen completed shooting exercises using AK-74M assault rifles and grenade launchers.They “mastered the skills of camouflaging shooting positions”.

Meanwhile, Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow will respond with military force if Nato allowed Ukraine to join the military alliance.

His comments are the first warning of military action since Russia moved around 90,000 troops to the Ukrainian border.

He told state news agency RIA Novosti: "A lack of progress towards a political, diplomatic solution to this problem would mean that our response will be military and military-technical.

“There will be confrontation. There’s basically no trust in Nato as an alliance.

“We’re no longer playing these kinds of games and don’t believe in Nato’s assurances.”


Ryabkov also threatened to deploy intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe which were last mobilised in large numbers by both sides in the Cold War in the early 1980s.

When they were first deployed, the rockets brought European cities into much closer striking range, adding an even more terrifying dimension to the nuclear arms race.

But a historic treaty signed between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan eventually saw the two sides destroy nearly 2,700 of them.

America withdrew from the pact in 2019 after complaining for years of alleged violations revolving around Russia's development of a ground-launched cruise missile.

Russian soldiers fired machine guns and grenade launchers during the drills
Russian soldiers fired machine guns and grenade launchers during the drillsThis comes after a five-day drill exercise when 500 tanks crews performed winter live firing from T-72B3 and T-90A tanks.

The earlier drills were carried out at multiple locations across the southern military district but included Rostov and also Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.

“The servicemen also fired large-calibre anti-aircraft machine guns,” said an official account.

“The crews drilled hitting targets imitating a moving tank, an antitank grenade launcher and a recoilless gun at distances ranging between 300 and 2,000 metres.”

A spokesman said: "The drivers practiced driving the tanks in rough terrain, negotiating natural obstacles, including anti tank ditches and barriers.


“The tank crew combat training program focuses on offensive and defensive tactics both in the daytime and at night.”

Kiev's allies have always pledged to support them, but intervening against Russia could risk spiralling into a conflict that could explode into World War 3.

Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace recently said the UK was ready to use force to help defend Ukraine.

Joe Biden has held a high-stakes two hours call with Vladimir Putin in a bid to de-escalate tensions - with the US President threatening sanctions over the situation at Russia's border.

According to US officials, Biden told Putin there would be “clear and decisive” consequences in case of an invasion.

US intelligence has detected Russian troops on the border with Ukraine
US intelligence has detected Russian troops on the border with Ukraine
Russian troops were seen taking part in the exercises
Russian troops were seen taking part in the exercisesCredit: East2West
A Russian soldier fires his weapon during the drills
A Russian soldier fires his weapon during the drills

What is happening between Russia and Ukraine?

RUSSIA and the Ukraine have remained technically at war since 2014.

Ukraine was aligned with Russia as part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991, following which it became an independent state.

Both nations remained closely tied - but Ukraine gradually began to distance itself, seeking deeper ties with the West.

The open conflict was triggered by the Ukrainian Revolution in 2014 - when an uprising overthrew the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.

Vladimir Putin's forces reacted by annexing the region of Crimea from Ukraine - a move which was widely condemned by the West.

The conflict then spiralled when pro-Russian groups in Eastern Ukraine then took up arms against the state.

Russia gave their backing to the separatist forces which formed breakaway republics in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Putin's forces then launched a military incursion into these regions as they gave their support to the rebels.

Russia continues to hold Crimea - and claims the region joined them willingly after they held a referendum.

Seven years have now passed and the War in Donbass remains at a stalemate.

It is estimated some 14,000 have been ki

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