Russia and Ukraine on the brink: War fears surge after Putin orders new military build up

Vladimir Putin discusses possibility of third world war

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It comes in the wake of recent Ukrainian drone strikes targeting Russian separatists in the country’s eastern provinces. Video footage circulating on social media shows Russian military hardware on the move in western Russia. In one clip uploaded to Twitter on October 27, trains packed with T-80U tanks, fuelling trucks, military ambulances and BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers were filmed by a motorist as they made their way through the city of Kursk.

Another video filmed on the same day captured Iskander tactical missile systems being transported by road close to the city of Bryansk.

Both Russian cities lie within just 200km of the border with Ukraine.

Yet another clip shows the Maslovka railway station in Voronezh jammed full of military equipment in scenes reminiscent of April, when Russian troops massed in their 10,000s on the Ukrainian border.

The equipment included 2S19 “Msta-S” howitzers, BMP amphibious fighting vehicles and MT-LB multi-purpose armoured carriers.

An expert on the Russian military said the situation merited “vigilance” and was a “cause for concern”.

Michael Kofman, a director of Russia Studies at the Centre for Naval Analyses (CNA) wrote in a tweet: “I think there is a developing situation, and it could turn into something significant.

“Yes, in the winter (like 2015). Not in the next few days, but weeks/months.

“Overall, I don’t think you’re seeing a drill or regular training.”

He added: “Trust me, this region has wars in winter.”

January 2015 saw the renewal of heavy fighting between Ukrainian troops and Moscow-backed separatists after the total collapse of a ceasefire brokered between the warring sides in September 2014, known as the Minsk Protocol.

Fierce clashes occurred at Donetsk International Airport and at Debaltseve, before a new truce was agreed on February 12, 2015, called Minsk II.

Earlier this week, the Ukrainian military carried out strikes with Turkish TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) against separatists in the Donbas.

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A D-30 howitzer was struck in what the Ministry of Defence claimed was a retaliatory strike, following injuries sustained by two Ukrainian servicemen during an artillery attack by Russian-backed militias.

Rebels from the Donetsk People’s Republic also claimed that Kiev carried out another UAV attack on an oil facility in Donetsk on Thursday, although they denied that any damage was inflicted.

The head of Russia’s State Duma Committee on Defence warned that Ukraine’s actions risked pouring fuel on the flames of the conflict.

Andrei Kartapolov said: “The use of a Bayraktar unmanned aerial vehicle by the Ukrainian military (as announced by the Ukrainian General Staff) will further escalate the conflict inside Ukraine.”

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