British troops prepare as Ukraine tensions worsen

The Estonian military yesterday revealed they will act as the “adversary” and attack British troops and tanks near the town of Tapa during the week-long Winter Camp exercise.

The 900 British troops stationed in the Baltic state will be joined by the Parachute and Yorkshire Regiments, who will train alongside Challenger 2 tanks in freezing conditions.

Lt Col Nicolas, deputy commanding officer of the eFP Estonia Battlegroup said: “It is a real opportunity for our soldiers to perfect their tactical skills in a demanding winter environment, as well as to strengthen their interoperability work with our Nato allies.”

The annual drill comes as British fighter jets and ships look set to be sent to Eastern Europe.

Among potential options are deploying British F35 jets or Typhoons to Nato airfields and reinforcing battle groups on Europe’s eastern flank.

Sources have stressed no decision has been taken about what additional support Britain could provide for allies in Eastern Europe.

British troops will not be deployed to Ukraine as it is not a member of Nato. But the UK and the US, as well as other major European nations, are keen to show their support for Nato allies in Eastern Europe.

America has threatened to halt the opening of a key pipeline that would send Russian gas to Western Europe.

US state department spokesman Ned Price said: “I want to be very clear: if Russia invades Ukraine one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky hailed “positive” talks between diplomatic teams from Moscow and Kiev onWednesday.

Both sides agreed after the Paris meeting that all sides should observe a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have been battling pro-Russia separatists since 2014.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesman said yesterday even the thought of a war breaking out between Russia and Ukraine was “unacceptable”. It was the latest in a series of official statements aimed at quashing fears of a looming Russian invasion.

Alexei Zaitsev said: “We have already repeatedly stated that our country does not intend to attack anyone.

“We consider even the thought of a war between our people to be unacceptable.” Meanwhile, the Kremlin said the American response to some of its security concerns “allows us to hope for a start of a serious discussion”.

The US response – in the form of a letter delivered yesterday – has not met these demands, but Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister hailed some initiatives it laid out.

“As far as this document goes, there is a reaction that allows us to hope for a start of a serious discussion but on secondary issues,” he told Russian news agencies. “There is no positive reaction to the main issue.”

Russian foreign ministry official Vladimir Ermakov said: “We continue to insist it is a priority to reach a principled understanding that the problems in this area must be urgently addressed. Otherwise, new ‘missile crises’ are unavoidable.

“We insist Nato’s ‘joint nuclear missions’ must immediately be stopped, all the American nuclear arms returned to the United States and the infrastructure that allows it to ensure a rapid deployment liquidated.”

But the Kremlin said there was room to “continue dialogue” with the US over its security concerns.

It comes as Russian troops continue to carry out exercises close to the Ukrainian border.

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