British military ready as minister vows to 'protect our partners' in face of Russian aggression over Belarus and Ukraine

BRITISH troops are on standby to protect countries in Eastern Europe against aggression from Russia, a minister said today.

Tory chairman Oliver Dowden insisted the UK is committed to defending our allies amid growing alarm over Vladimir Putin's meddling.

There is a crisis at the Belarus-Poland border, where Kremlin puppet Alexander Lukashenko is weaponising migration to pressure the EU.

British and US security services are meanwhile increasingly worried Russia is going to invade Ukraine.

A force of 600 SAS troops is on standby to be sent to Kiev's aid if Moscow launches an attack on the country.

UK officials fear Putin has created the chaos in nearby Belarus to distract Europe's attention away from his real target.

Western spooks believe there's a "high probability" Russia will intervene, according to Ukraine's deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar.

She told the Financial Times their intelligence was based on more than just the 100,000 Kremlin troops amassing at the border.

Mr Dowden insisted the UK is ready to intervene to maintain peace on the continent.

He said: "British troops are in Eastern Europe. We have a large number of them in Estonia to offer our guarantee and protection as part of NATO.

"The UK invests more in defence than any other European country as a proportion of our GDP.

"We stand ready to protect our partners and to uphold peace and security in Europe."

The top Tory said the situation at the Poland-Belarus border is a "very worrying situation".

He added: "There's a great deal of attention being paid to it by the Government and we keep the whole situation under review.

"Our contribution as the UK is to the the defence and stability of Europe – that has continued despite us leaving the EU.

"It's more important than ever that we protect Europe, and we have got troops there to help do that.

"It's very much at the top of the agenda for the PM and the Defence Secretary, and our military assets are available there."

Tinpot Belarus dictator Lukashenko has been flying in asylum seekers from the Middle East and bussing them to the border with Poland.

Belarusian militants have then been helping them try to cross the heavily defended frontier into the EU.

The aim is to create a fresh migrant crisis which, like in 2015, will sew chaos and division within the bloc.

Britain has deployed a small team of military engineers to Poland to help the country combat the crisis.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Lukashenko is "using desperate migrants as pawns in his bid to create instability and cling on to power".

She vowed: "The UK will not look away. We will stand with our allies in the region, who are on the frontier of freedom."

Brussels' foreign policy chief Josep Borrell denounced Minsk's actions as a "hybrid attack" on the continent.

He said: "Europe is in danger and Europeans do not realise it. Today’s world is no longer governed by the desire for peace and benevolence.

"We still have power conflicts between carnivores where herbivores are unlikely to survive.”

What is happening between Russia and Ukraine?

RUSSIA and Ukraine have remained technically at war since 2014.

Ukraine was aligned with Russia as part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991, following which it became an independent state.

Both nations remained closely tied – but Ukraine gradually began to distance itself, seeking deeper ties with the West.

The open conflict was triggered by the Ukrainian Revolution in 2014 – when an uprising overthrew the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.

Vladimir Putin's forces reacted by annexing the region of Crimea from Ukraine – a move which was widely condemned by the West.

The conflict then spiralled when pro-Russian groups in Eastern Ukraine then took up arms against the state.

Russia gave their backing the separatist forces which formed breakaway republics in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Putin's forces then launched a military incursion into these regions as they gave their support to the rebels.

Russia continues to hold Crimea – and claims the region joined them willingly after an illegal referendum.

Seven years have now passed and the War in Donbass remains at a stalemate.

It is estimated some 14,000 have been killed in the conflict, including more than 3,000 civilians.

Ukraine and the rebels signed a new ceasefire in July 2020 – but clashes have been steadily increasing again throughout 2021.

Meanwhile the US has said it is "very concerned" about a huge build up of Russian forces on the Ukraine border.

Some 100,000 Kremlin troops have descended the area amid growing fears of an imminent invasion.

It follows the release of shocking video which appeared to show Russian tanks, armoured vehicles and soldiers massing near the city of Voronezh – just 180 miles from the Ukrainian border.

The vehicles, which include a battalion of T-80U main battle tanks, are understood to have been brought down from the Moscow area.

Other clips show tanks being carried by train close to the city, while further footage shows a line of military troop-carrying trucks steaming down a highway in Bryansk around 100 miles from the border.

But Russia rubbished the reports and insisted it means no harm.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed Western media reports that Moscow has intentions to invade Ukraine as a "hollow and unfounded attempt to incite tensions".

He added: "Russia doesn’t threaten anyone. The movement of troops on our territory shouldn’t be a cause for anyone’s concern."

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