RUSSIAN snipers and army intelligence officers have been staging war games in the snow as Vladimir Putin amid fears of a winter invasion of Ukraine.
Reconnaissance troops are seen in action on snow vehicles rehearsing combat against a simulated enemy in extreme conditions below minus 10C as Russia continues to mass troops on its border with its neighbour.
The Arctic training in Murmansk region comes as tensions in Eastern Europe are at boiling point with Vladimir Putin estimated to be amassing about 150,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border.
The war games involved “destroying” foes with Kalashnikov rifles and Makarov pistols, according to Zvezda TV, which is owned by the Russian defence ministry.
A defence spokesman said: “Particular attention is paid to training military personnel for operations in low temperatures, deep snow cover, strong winds and polar nights.”
Sergei Kondratyev, commander of the motorised rifle brigade of the Russian Northern Fleet, shooting from snowmobiles is a compulsory part of combat training.
He said: “Winter is such a difficult time of the year, especially if you are driving over unfamiliar terrain — you do not know what can be under snow.”
Describing the exercise, the TV channel said: “Motorised riflemen instantly dismount and repulse the enemy.
“Operating under heavy fire, the unit still manages to get close to the ambush site.
“The ‘saboteurs’ are first surrounded, the disarmed — and destroyed.
“Practical shooting drills are held in the brigade at least once a week, but mobile crews operate daily.Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said: ”We continue to monitor the situation in Russia and Ukraine of course.
“We haven’t seen any significant changes in the posture of Russian forces arrayed around the Ukrainian border.
“They are still there in large numbers, and that’s as far as I think I’m going to go.”
Russia has demanded so-called security guarantees from the West over Ukraine not joining NATO, and curbs on missile deployment in eastern Europe.”
Yesterday Russia demanded strict limits on the activities of the US-led Nato military alliance in Eastern European countries.
It denies it was planning to invade, but wants Nato to rule out Ukraine and others ever joining the alliance to defuse the situation.
On Thursday, Yuliia Laputina, Ukraine’s minister for veterans affairs, said Russian aggression could lead to a new world war.
She told Sky News: “If Russia invades you know, you should also take care about the Balkans.
“What Russians are doing now in Serbia – they try to provoke a situation in the Balkans.
“But we also take into account [the beginning of] World War Three.”
On the subject of World War Three, she added: “Yeah. Because geopolitically, it looks like this is a possible scenario.
“So… we should pay attention to the Ukrainian issue because of the security of the continent.”
“This — the spreading of war in case of Russian invasion to Ukraine — will be much wider than Ukraine.”