Some 8,500 US troops have been placed on high alert to be deployed at short notice amid rising tensions over the Ukraine conflict, the Pentagon confirmed last night. Boris Johnson held a video conference with Joe Biden and other EU leaders, as they warned the Kremlin that any further aggression would be met by “severe costs”. The Prime Minister warned: “The intelligence is very clear that there are 60 Russian battle groups on the borders of Ukraine, the plan for a lightning war that could take out Kyiv is one that everybody can see.
“We need to make it very clear to the Kremlin, to Russia, that that would be a disastrous step.”
Russia has, however, denied plans for military action, despite a reported 100,000 military personnel amassed on the border.
Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, accused the West of escalating tensions by deploying more forces.
Russia has repeatedly blamed the West for the tense atmosphere, and Mr Putin issued a fierce warning to other leaders last year if a “red line” was crossed.
During his annual state of the nation address last April, Mr Putin said some Western countries were behaving like jackals trying to please the US.
He said: “We don’t want to burn bridges, but if somebody interprets our good intentions as weakness, our reaction will be asymmetrical, rapid and harsh.
“We’ll decide for ourselves in each case where the red line is.”
He added: “The organisers of any provocations against Russia will regret [their actions] in a way they never have before.”
Mr Peskov later added that the “red lines” meant “our external security interests, our internal security interests in preventing any outside interference, whether in our elections or other domestic political processes”.
Mr Putin has previously threatened to cut off gas supply in response to the imposition of any Ukraine-related sanctions.
The effects of such a measure would be felt right across Europe, and hit the entire continent in the pocket.