Fears of a Russian invasion and strike against Ukraine intensified today after new footage showed the country’s SU-35S fighter jets being deployed to Belarus. The deployment to Belarus, which borders Ukraine, could enable Moscow to threaten Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, according to Western officials and analysts. Footage released by the Russian Government showed several SU-35S fighter jets being flown out of Russia to Belarus.
Moscow claims the deployment is simply part of the countries’ joint military exercises – but these do not take place until February 10.
Russia also moved S-400 Triumph air-defence systems and elite Spetsnaz troops to Belarus.
Russia has already amassed more than 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine – but still denies it is planning an invasion.
In fact, President Vladimir Putin has deployed more than 60 battalion tactical groups – more than a third of his country’s total available force.
JUST IN: Maddie McCann mystery blown open: new ‘shocking’ evidence uncovered
One senior US state department official said that the new forces in Belarus represent an “increased capability for Russia to launch this attack, increased opportunity, increased avenues, increased routes”.
The official said: “What concerns us is the total picture. It is the amassing of 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders combined with moving forces into Belarus over the weekend.
“These numbers are beyond, of course, what we would expect with regard to a normal exercise.”
The latest Belarus move appears to be part of a strategy to surround Ukraine.
This comes as negotiations between the US and Russia on drawing down operations appear at a deadlock.
President Putin has coordinated the troop deployment with ultimatums to the West that Ukraine is prevented from joining the NATO military alliance.
Earlier today, the UK accused President Putin of plotting to install a pro-Moscow ‘puppet government’ to lead Ukraine.
In response, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed Britain was “circulating disinformation” and urged it to “stop spreading nonsense”.
US officials, including House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, claimed the reports from British intelligence showed “the imminent and real threat of a massive Russian invasion”.