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Putin's plot to cut off Kiev: Ukraine's best troops sidelined with attack on major target




Ukraine’s most highly-trained and best-equipped troops are in the east of the country and Nato members fear Russian forces will attack Kiev from the north whilst assaulting targets from the east in a multiple axes invasion.

And the size of the force in Belarus – which includes 30,000 combat troops, elite Spetsnaz special forces units, Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missile defence system – means Western officials fear the Ukrainian capital will be attacked within days of the invasion beginning.

Forces in Belarus have been observed moving closer to the border with Ukraine, prompting fears it is preparing for a major military operation.

It is considered very unlikely Vladimir Putin will order a singular strike on Kiev and military chiefs consider it vital that Russian forces cut off Ukrainian troops in the east if they are to successfully take the capital.

Russia is understood to want to strike the capital in a lightning assault to shock the rest of the country and damage morale among Ukrainian forces.

Many Ukrainian troops have been engaged in a bloody war in the east of Ukraine since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backed pro-Russian separatists in a war against the Kiev government.

And a “false flag operation”, where Russian-backed forces attack separatists in the Donbas or Luhansk region, in order to justify a Kremlin-ordered assault is still considered likely, officials say.

Around 130,000 Russian troops are now massed on the border with Ukraine accounts – around 60 per cent of Vladimir Putin’s ground combat power.

Russia is now believed to have 100 battalion tactical groups – formations of around 1,000 troops, accompanied by air defence, artillery and logistical support – on the border with Ukraine and intelligence assessments indicate another 14 groups are set to join them over the coming days.

Western officials conceded President Vladimir Putin could invade Ukraine “at the drop of a hat” after a “truly alarming” military build-up.

The recent deployment of more fighter jets and attack helicopters has “doubled” the “effective combat power” of the Russian force on the border.

But Putin is not yet believed to have made a decision on whether to invade the former Soviet nation.

Precision Iskander missile systems have been deployed along the Ukrainian border and the Kremlin has amassed naval vessels in the Black Sea for both “amphibious capability” and the ability for “precision strike”.

And the size of the force in annexed Crimea will give Putin options to launch operations in the south of Ukraine.

Russia has boosted its naval presence in the Black Sea and Mediterranean, with both “amphibious” capabilities, allowing troops to be dropped onto land, and “precision strike” capabilities.

The Daily Express understands the scale of the deployments to the Ukrainian border far exceed deployments typically seen for training exercises. And National Guard troops have been mobilised, pointing towards Russian plans to try and seize and hold down territory.

Western officials say they expect a well organised Ukrainian insurgency if Russia were to take over key Ukrainian towns and cities.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Friday warned an invasion is “likely to begin with aerial bombing” and missile strikes, followed by tanks and troops moving in.

Eight more US F-15 fighter jets arrived in Poland yesterday to take part in Nato air policing amid continued signs of Russian escalation on Poland’s border with Ukraine.

And UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace revealed the UK is deploying a “small number of military personnel” to Lithuania

The British troops will help with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as Vilnius grapples with pressure on border with Belarus.

While it is not considered likely Russia will move thousands of troops into central Kiev, due to the “difficulties” of urban conflict, Moscow’s military chiefs have repeatedly shown they have little regard for civilians.



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'This is huge' Swedish Air Force jet deployed over Belarus border in threat to Putin




The Scandinavian country is not a member of NATO, but could be ready to trade in its neutral status in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

News of Stockholm’s decision to send a jet was revealed by twitter user Jamming.

They wrote: “Swedish Air Force Korpen active over Poland border area with Belarus.

“Sweden part of surveillance of Belarus and Ukraine!!!

“This is a huge political statement! Update on SwAF Korpen.”


The Gulfstream IV aircraft was tracked taking off from Linking airport and then flying towards the city of Grodno in western Belarus.

It was flying at an altitude of just under 12,000 metres at a speed of 836 kilometres per hour.

Although Sweden is not a NATO member, it is an “enhanced opportunity partner” of the military alliance.

The government also signed a statement in 2018 pledging to strengthen its defence cooperation.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson rejected calls by opposition parties earlier this month for the country to join NATO.

She argued that such a move would further destabilise Europe.

Her statement came in the wake of threats from Moscow that NATO membership would bring “serious military-political consequences” for Sweden.

However, there is growing public support among Swedes for their country to join the transatlantic military alliance.

A poll conducted in late February by broadcaster SVT found that 41 percent of the public supported NATO membership, while thirty-five percent were against.

It was the first time an opinion study in Sweden had found more people in favour of the country joining NATO than were against it.



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Putin humiliated: Russia tries and fails to capture defiant Ukraine village for tenth time




Russia has tried and failed to capture the village of the Chornobaevka ten times, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Aleksey Arestovich. Videos shared by Ukrainian officials online showed the “tenth defeat of the Russian invaders in Chornobaevka”. The continued failures to capture the village comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last night that his country’s forces had “dealt powerful blows” to the Russian military.

Mr Arestovich told a press conference that Russian troops had tried to take Chornobaevka for the tenth time, but the assault again ended in failure.

Following this, the head of the nearby Mykolaiv Regional State Administration Vitaly Kim published a video showing “the defeat” as explosions erupt on the outskirts of the village.

The resolute village has become famous in Ukraine for its defence, as President Zelensky commended Chornobaivka last weekend for fending off six invasions at the time.

He said: “Ukrainian Chornobaivka will go down in war history. This is a place where the Russian military and their commanders have shown themselves for who they truly are – incompetent, capable of simply handing over their people for slaughter.

“Our military has annihilated the invaders near Chornobaivka six times.

“Six times, yet they keep coming back.”

JUST IN: Putin on brink of major RETREAT in Kyiv

Online users ridiculed the latest Russian failures and hailed the Ukrainian defiance, with one Reddit user remarking: “At some point, I think every military intelligence outfit looking at this must be wondering how bad the rot is in the Russian military.”

One user visavillem added: “So this is the 10th time. Are Russians trying to bait Ukrainians to waste ammo with some obsolete/broken equipment, or are they really so stupid, that they keep stepping on the same rake again and again?”

Another user on Reddit adfgqert posted: “The Ukrainian people have resolve and determination that is beyond what I think is normal.

“Beyond inspirational and they bring fighting for what they believe in to a new level for me.” 

This comes amid ongoing setbacks for Russian military forces in the south of the country.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Russia had withdrawn most of its helicopters from a strategic airport in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, according to satellite images.

Kherson has also been the site of several local protests against the occupying Russian soldiers.

The official said: “We can’t corroborate exactly who is in control of Kherson but the point is, it doesn’t appear to be as solidly in Russian control as it was before.

“That would make it very, very difficult for them to make any kind of ground movement on Odesa.

“That would be a significant development, no question about that, in terms of the southern part of the war.” 


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