Ukraine: 8,500 US troops on high alert as Boris warns of 'violent and bloody business'

25 January 2022, 06:01 | Updated: 25 January 2022, 07:35

8,500 US troops on high alert to deploy at short notice amid rising tension over Ukraine
8,500 US troops on high alert to deploy at short notice amid rising tension over Ukraine. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Pentagon has put 8,500 US troops on heightened alert for potential deployment to eastern Europe, amid rising fears of a possible Russian military invasion in Ukraine.

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Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said no final decisions had been made on deployments but said troops will be ready to move with just 5-days notice.

"What this is about is reassurance to our Nato allies," Mr Kirby said, adding that no troops are intended for deployment to Ukraine itself.

Mr Kirby was not prepared to identify the US-based units because they were still being notified and could not rule out the possibility that US troops already based in Europe could be shifted east as further reinforcements.

It comes as Boris Johnson said yesterday: "The intelligence is very clear that there are 60 Russian battle groups on the borders of Ukraine, the plan for a lightning war that could take out Kyiv is one that everybody can see.

"We need to make it very clear to the Kremlin, to Russia, that that would be a disastrous step."

"From a Russian perspective" an invasion is "going to be a painful, violent and bloody business", the Prime Minister added.

"I think it's very important that people in Russia understand that this could be a new Chechnya."

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The Pentagon's move comes as tensions have soared between Russia and the West over concerns that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine, with Nato outlining potential troop and ship deployments, Britain saying it would withdraw some diplomats from Kyiv, and Ireland denouncing upcoming Russian war games off its coast.

Mr Kirby said the US is anticipating the potential for Nato to activate what it calls the Nato Response Force, a multi-national force totalling about 40,000 troops.

Around NATO 4,000 troops currently based in multinational battalions in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, backed by tanks, air defences and intelligence and surveillance units.

Whilst Russia has massed around 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border.

Boris Johnson's met with US president and other European leaders to discuss how to tackle Russian aggression against Ukraine yesterday.

During the virtual talks, it was agreed diplomacy should continue, but also to prepare massive economic consequences if Moscow invades.

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A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The leaders agreed on the importance of international unity in the face of growing Russian hostility. The Prime Minister underlined the real human cost of any Russian aggression and the need to take all steps within our power to prevent that outcome.

"The leaders stressed that diplomatic discussions with Russia remain the first priority, and welcomed talks that have already taken place between Russia and Nato allies.

"They also agreed that the international community should not tolerate any action which undermines Ukrainian sovereignty. The Prime Minister outlined the steps the UK has taken to increase Ukraine's defensive capacity. He emphasised the need to support Ukraine's defences against the full spectrum of malign Russian activity.

"The leaders agreed that, should a further Russian incursion into Ukraine happen, allies must enact swift retributive responses including an unprecedented package of sanctions. They resolved to continue co-ordinating closely on any such response."