Russia Masses Heavy Firepower on Border with Ukraine – Witness

From Reuters:

Tanks are seen on a freight train shortly after its arrival at a railway station in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 26, 2015. Picture taken with a mobile phone. REUTERS/Maria Tsvetkova

Tanks are seen on a freight train shortly after its arrival at a railway station in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 26, 2015. Picture taken with a mobile phone. REUTERS/Maria Tsvetkova

Russia’s army is massing troops and hundreds of pieces of weaponry including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery at a makeshift base near the border with Ukraine, a Reuters reporter saw this week.

Many of the vehicles have number plates and identifying marks removed while many of the servicemen had taken insignia off their fatigues. As such, they match the appearance of some of the forces spotted in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev and its Western allies allege are covert Russian detachments.

The scene at the base on the Kuzminsky firing range, around 50 km (30 miles) from the border, offers some of the clearest evidence to date of what appeared to be a concerted Russian military build-up in the area.

Earlier this month, NATO military commander General Philip Breedlove said he believed the separatists were taking advantage of a ceasefire that came into force in February to re-arm and prepare for a new offensive. However, he gave no specifics.

Russia denies that its military is involved in the conflict in Ukraine’s east, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting forces loyal to the pro-Western government in Kiev.

Russia’s defense ministry said it had no immediate comment about the build-up. Several soldiers said they had been sent to the base for simple military exercises, suggesting their presence was unconnected to the situation in Ukraine.

Asked by Reuters if large numbers of unmarked weaponry and troops without insignia at the border indicated that Russia planned to invade Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a conference call with reporters:

“I find the wording of this question, ‘if an invasion is being prepared’, inappropriate as such.”

The weapons being delivered there included Uragan multiple rocket launchers, tanks and self-propelled howitzers — all weapon types that have been used in the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kiev’s forces and separatists.

Read the complete article here at Reuters.

Neutral Finland, Russia’s Neighbor, Reserves Right To Join NATO As New Government Takes Power

From the International Business Times:

Finland’s new Prime Minister will appoint a government cabinet this week, which may take the neutral Nordic country, Russia’s neighbor, in a new direction: towards NATO. In a recent policy statement, the new center-right coalition government said that the country may join NATO “at any time” over the next four years, shifting dramatically from its traditional neutral stance.

The move, which comes just a week after 900,000 Finnish reservists were sent letters to ensure they could be quickly contacted in the event of war, will likely surprise onlookers in Moscow who believed that the inclusion of the nationalist party and anti-NATO Finns Party in the new three-member coalition would see interest in joining the alliance waver.

“The previous government made sure that it did not apply for NATO membership during its time in office,” said Teija Tiilikainen, the director of the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, speaking to Defense News. “The new government’s policy is different, it keeps the issue alive and the option open. It will be interesting to see how all this develops.”

Four years ago, when Finland’s previous government came to power, NATO membership was deliberately ruled out. Even two years ago, the subject was seldom discussed as a serious or necessary option for Finland. However. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the Kremlin’s continued involvement in the Ukraine war, and increased military activity in international waters and air space around Europe has seen public opinion shift.

A poll taken in September 2014 by Finnish-based pollster YLE showed that 43 percent of the Finnish public perceived Russia as a danger, up by 20 percentage points from March, when Russia annexed Crimea.

Read More here at the International Business Times.

NATO Chief says Russian Nuclear Threats are ‘Deeply Troubling and Dangerous’

From The Guardian:

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia’s provocative rhetoric and its dramatic expansion of flights by nuclear bombers are deeply troubling and dangerous, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

Russia’s plans to deploy nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad – near Poland’s border – and its threat to move nuclear forces in Crimea would “fundamentally change the balance of security in Europe,” Stoltenberg warned, in a speech during a visit to Washington.

In blunt language, the Nato chief delivered a scathing critique of Russia’s behaviour over the past year – including Moscow’s armed intervention in Ukraine – and vowed the transatlantic alliance would redouble its commitment to “collective defence”.

“Russia’s recent use of nuclear rhetoric, exercises and operations are deeply troubling,” he told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

The Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “admission that he considered putting Russia’s nuclear forces on alert while Russia was annexing Crimea is but one example,” the former Norwegian prime minister said.

The Nato alliance was also concerned about Russia’s compliance with nuclear arms agreements and stepped-up global flights by strategic bombers.

The Nato alliance was also concerned about Russia’s compliance with nuclear arms agreements and stepped-up global flights by strategic bombers.

“Russia has also significantly increased the scale, number and range of pro-active flights by nuclear-capable bombers across much of the globe,” Stoltenberg said.

The Russian bomber flights, he said, spanned “from Japan to Gibraltar, from Crete to California, and from the Baltic sea to the Black Sea.”

 

Read More of the Article from The Guardian.

Russia Begins Massive Air Force Exercise

From the BBC

Tu-95 Long Range Russian Bombers Near the UK (Photo Credit: Ministry of Defense)

Tu-95 Long Range Russian Bombers Near the UK (Photo Credit: Ministry of Defense)

Russia’s military forces have begun a large exercise involving around 250 aircraft and 12,000 service personnel, according to its defence ministry.

The ministry described the four-day drill as a “massive surprise inspection”, to check combat readiness.

The tests began on the same day as Nato and some of its partners started an Arctic training exercise.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine and incursions into Western airspace have led to rising tensions with the West.

According to reports on the Russian agencies Interfax and Tass, the inspection of the aviation group and air defence forces in the central military district involves almost 700 weapons and pieces of military hardware.

During the exercise, Russia’s long-range aircraft are due to carry out cruise missile strikes on practice targets in the Komi republic.

The BBC’s Caroline Wyatt, in Moscow, says the current drills are in preparation for a larger exercise known as Center-2015 in the next few months.

Asked about Russia’s assertiveness in a TV interview, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin joked that “tanks don’t need visas”.

The outspoken politician is himself on EU and US blacklists as part of sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, limiting his travel options.

Read More of the Article at the BBC

NATO: Russia May Use Nuclear Weapons Amid Growing War Fears

President Vladimir Putin

President Vladimir Putin

NATO believes that Russia considers using tactical nuclear weapons as a way of waging a war. General Hans-Lothar Domröse, NATO Commander of the Brunssum Allied Joint Force Command, said he sees a threat in Russia’s actions and descried Russian President Vladimir Putin as a dangerous “gambler.”

General Hans-Lothar Domröse claims that the alliance is concerned over the possibility of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons.

“The Russians consider it possible to use tactical nuclear weapons as a way of waging a war. We [NATO] – do not,” the General said in an interview with German magazine Focus Online.

Hans-Lothar Domröse has also revealed what NATO thinks of Putin. According to him, Putin is a “tough-minded, forward-thinking politician who is capable of foreseeing the situation.”

The general added that Russian president is a dangerous “gambler,” but did not go into details.

“He is not crazy. He is a gambler. And it can be dangerous,” the general said.

However, according to the general, NATO does not view Russia as its enemy, rather as a potential threat. “I think it must be pointed out that in NATO, on one is interested in waging a war. However, we will protect our population. I hope that president Putin understands that. That is the reason why I sleep calmly,” he said.

Read More Here

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