Russia is believed to have dispatched as many as 104,000 soldiers to the border with Ukraine over recent months, sparking fears of an attempt to annex the rest of the Eastern European nation. Vladimir Putin last week issued a warning to NATO as he insisted Moscow is ready to retaliate should the organisation try to welcome Kiev in its files. Chilling footage released from the Russian Ministry of Defence over the weekend further fuelled fears of an invasion after troops were seen carrying out a series of drills near the Ukrainian border and in the Republic of Buryatia.
In the video, Russian troops can be seen practicing taking out “enemy” targets with the help of self-propelled howitzers Msta-S and anti-tank guided missiles.
Soldiers could also be seen testing their tank capabilities with target practice.
The military drills in Buryatia come days after further footage was released showing troops conducting war games near the border with Ukraine.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic and a close ally to Vladimir Putin, said regional forces are also ready to intervene in Ukraine if Moscow were to give an order soon.
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Mr Kadyrov said: “With Kiev’s existence, there is always a place for the West to deploy its military bases there and to dictate their demands in regard to our country.
“I am positive that our president would not allow it.
“We [Chechnya] are ready to act as an infantry force to be deployed anywhere and accomplish orders without any problems.”
Nearly 1,200 soldiers were involved in the Ukrainian side of the military drills, as well as over 250 pieces of military equipment.
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The Russian foreign ministry said on Sunday NATO had forwarded a proposal to commence talks on Moscow’s security concerns on January 12 and was considering it.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that talks with NATO made sense and that the arrangements were being worked out via diplomatic channels.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the talks would take place immediately after Russia’s New Year holidays.
The first official working day of 2022 in Russia is January 10.