Putin's threat to West: How Russia has surrounded Ukraine's border

Putin’s threat to the West: How Russia has surrounded Ukraine’s border with troops, tanks and missile launchers after threatening ‘full-scale combat operations’, prompting US to send warships to Black Sea

  • US is to dispatch two warships to sail through the Bosphorus on April 14 and 15
  • Putin has massed his largest force at Ukrainian border since 2014 conflict began
  • Tanks, trucks and howitzers have been freighted by the hundred to the region
  • Satellite and amateur footage has revealed infantry camps and artillery batteries

Russia has surrounded Ukraine’s border with tanks, missiles and thousands of men as it threatens ‘full-scale combat operations.’

The United States is to dispatch two warships to the Black Sea next week in response to Vladimir Putin’s colossal build-up of military hardware close to the front. 

Footage has emerged of tanks, missile trucks and howitzers being freighted to the Crimea and the border of the disputed Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, which has been occupied by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

Satellite and social media images have revealed new Russian encampments and artillery batteries in the provinces of Voronezh and Krasnodar which lie to the east of Donbass. 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said today the situation in eastern Ukraine was ‘very unstable’ and warned it risked leading to ‘full-scale combat operations.’  

Footage has emerged of tanks, missile trucks and howitzers being freighted by train to the Crimea and the border of the disputed Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, which has been occupied by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. Satellite and social media images have revealed new Russian encampments and artillery batteries in the provinces of Voronezh and Krasnodar which lie to the east of Donbass

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy walks along a trench during a visit to the frontline on Thursday where Kiev’s troops have been locked in conflict with Russian-backed separatists since 2014


The notorious Buk missile system, left, was spotted being transported in the Voronzeh region close to the Ukrainian border, as other footage showed military trucks being freighted to the region

Nuclear-capable 2S4 Tyulpan self-propelled mortar system moved in Krasnodar region

Railway workers on the line as tanks and trucks are transported close to Russia’s border with Ukraine

A truck is seen on its way to the Ukrainian border amid a massive build up of hardware from Moscow

Satellite pictures show a field camp for Russian forces in Vorenzh, in the same region as the Buk missile launching truck was sighted. The Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) highlighted the base which has appeared in recent days

Thousands of Russian troops have been dispatched to the Ukrainian border, some of them are believed to be staying at this field camp in the Voronezh region

Putin insists that his actions are purely defensive, but Washington has said it is ‘increasingly concerned’ by the largest Russian military presence at the border since the conflict began.

Amid soaring tensions, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy donned body armour and a helmet to tour trenches along the frontier on Thursday.

One of Putin’s top aides yesterday warned that any assault by Kiev on Russian ‘citizens’ in the region would be ‘the beginning of the end of Ukraine.’

Deputy head of Russia’s presidential administration, Dmitry Kozak, said that Moscow would not act first, but if Kiev did move against it, the response would be ‘not a shot in the leg, but in the face.’ 

It was announced today that the United States will dispatch two warships to the Black Sea in an attempt to head off Russian aggression.

Joe Biden sought permission from Turkey to transport vessels through the Bosphorus after his press secretary said the US is ‘increasingly concerned’ by Russian movements at the border.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed the American ships will pass through the narrow strait on April 14 and April 15. 

The official said the US notified Turkey 15 days prior to the ships’ passage in line with a convention which gives Ankara control of the straits.

Such visits by the US and other Nato ships have vexed Moscow, which has long bristled at Ukraine’s efforts to build up defence ties with the West and its aspirations to eventually join Nato.

Washington is also continuing to fly reconnaissance planes over the sea to monitor Russian activity and flew two B-1 bombers over the Aegean Sea earlier this week.

It comes after Russian artillery boats and landing craft were transported from the Caspian to the Black Sea.

Landing craft are of particular concern because they are used for offensive action and Putin has claimed his actions are solely defensive.

Among other hardware which has seen being freighted to the border with Ukraine are tanks, howitzers, BUK anti-aircraft missile launchers and support vehicles.   

Putin’s senior aide Kozak was yesterday asked if Russia would protect its people in eastern Ukraine if they come under attack from Kiev.

Referring in his reply to Srebrenica, where about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, he said: ‘It all depends on the scale of the fire. If there is, as our president says, Srebrenica, apparently we will have to step in to defend (them).’

Putin has made previous analogies to a ‘second Srebrenica’ if Ukraine does not submit to an amnesty on new border lines which have emerged since the conflict started in 2014. 

The Russian president yesterday accused Ukraine of ‘provocative actions’ in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

His words reflect the masses of military hardware which has been seen being ferried for thousands of miles to the border region.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits positions of armed forces near the frontline with Russian-backed separatists in Donbass on Friday

Zelenskiy tours trenches on the frontlines today in a new show of strength as Russia masses its forces on the border

Trucks and tanks are transported close to the Ukrainian border amid a massive build up of military hardware


A Russian howitzer is seen being transported, left, along with a tank

Russian president Vladimir Putin is massing forces at the borders of Ukraine (pictured at the Kremlin during a meeting on March 24)

Footage emerged on Thursday of a Buk missile system in the in Voronezh region which borders Ukraine, amid new fears that Moscow could be massing an invasion-capable force.

The weapons system was used in rebel-held Donetsk region in 2014 to down a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 killing 298 people. 

More footage shows the nuclear-capable 2S4 Tyulpan self-propelled mortar system being moved on a military train in Krasnodar region.  

New satellite images have also revealed a field camp for Russian forces in the same region as the BUK was seen.

The Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) highlighted the base which has appeared in recent days.

Ruslan Leviev, from CIT, told BBC Ukraine: ‘We notice the movement of all the units.

‘These are both ‘Pskov paratroopers’ and motorised infantry units – they are for example, from the Kemerovo region of Siberia, and from Dagestan.’

The downing of Malaysian flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur by a BUK missile in July 2014 caused a major international scandal.

Russia denied responsibility but Western investigators found Moscow had provided the BUK system that blew the passenger plane out of the sky.

Merkel has advised Putin to pull his forces back from Ukraine’s eastern border amid escalating violence along the frontier.  

‘The Chancellor demanded that this build-up be unwound in order to de-escalate the situation,’ Berlin said in a readout of yesterday’s call.

Russia has said its forces pose no threat and were defensive, but that they would stay there as long as Moscow saw fit.  

The Kremlin said in its readout of the Merkel phone call that ‘Vladimir Putin noted provocative actions by Kiev which is is deliberately inflaming the situation along the line of contact.’ 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy flew to eastern Donbass in a show of support on Thursday. He is pictured shaking hands with officers after landing by helicopter

A Ukrainian soldier walks along a trench at the frontline close to the rebel-held city of Donetsk in the pro-Russian Donbass region


Various videos and photos have emerged on social media in recent weeks purporting to show a build up of Russian military hardware close to the border with Ukraine

Kremlin spokesman Peskov yesterday said those living in eastern Ukraine would not tolerate Nato membership, and that the Ukrainian president’s rhetoric could further destabilise the Donbass region.

‘So far we’re not seeing an intention by the Ukrainian side to somehow calm down and move away from belligerent topics,’ he said.

The rouble hit a five-month low on Wednesday after Russia said it had begun a planned inspection of its army’s combat readiness involving thousands of drills. 

The standoff has also pushed Ukrainian sovereign bonds to their lowest level since November.  

Ukraine and Western countries say Donbass separatists have been armed, led, funded and aided by Russians. Moscow has denied interfering.

While a ceasefire halted full-scale warfare in 2015, sporadic fighting never ceased.    

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