RUSSIAN troops are continuing to flood the Ukraine border sparking concerns Vladimir Putin is gearing up for a “short, sharp war” within DAYS.
The country could be plotting to kick off 2022 with quite the bang as military forces and artillery edge closer to Kyiv.
The warning comes as Russia claimed that President Joe Biden had caved to Putin’s demands after the pair’s intense 50-minute phone summit late yesterday.
The Kremlin spun the talks to suggest that the US leader “agreed” with the Russian president’s insistence that Moscow required “security guarantees” from the West.
It is feared that if Putin does not secure the cast iron pledges as demanded – the most likely outcome – he will launch a preemptive strike on Ukranian forces in border zones early next year.
The move would wreak havoc on their neighbouring country without necessarily making a new land grab.
Tensions in Eastern Europe appear to show little sign of cooling, with some experts previously suggesting the Russian president was planning to exploit the festive period and attack while the West was “distracted”.
His troops have continued to prepare over Christmas, with new footage emerging showing hundreds of reconnaissance forces drilling in “tactical shooting skills”.
They have been polishing their skills in heavy snow drifts at the Kadamovsky firing range in the Rostov region, close to the Ukrainian border.
The drills mark the end of the 4,000 plus war games and exercises held this year – around 11 a day – by Russian forces.
At least 100,000 troops are reported to be just a stones throw from the Ukrainian frontier, according to Western sources.
Detailed analysis by an independent Russian group of troop movements from multiple open sources indicates that despite the Biden-Putin talks and planned east-west sessions scheduled for the New Year, the Kremlin’s forces “keep arriving at the border”.
“Open source data shows how the earlier discovered camps are growing, new camps are set up, while tanks and howitzers are joined by sophisticated air defence systems,” said the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), a Russian group monitoring military movements.
“During the past month, troops and/or vehicles were being transferred more actively into regions to the north-east of Ukraine.”
It drew attention to concentrations at Klintsy and Klimovo in Bryansk region, some 30 and six miles respectively from the Ukrainian border.
A second military camp has appeared near Klintsy, while an abandoned base at the disused Klimovo airstrip now has a concentration of military vehicles.
An increase of vehicle concentrations “is also noted near Valuyki, Belgorod region” – some six miles from the Ukrainian border, alongside a rise in Russian forces in annexed Crimea.
The Buk-3 and S-350 air defence systems were also seen in the Black Sea peninsula, which has been under Russian control since 2014.
The CIT concluded: “All of these new developments lead us to a conclusion that by the New Year the concentration of vehicles near Ukraine’s borders and in Crimea has reached an unprecedented scale, most likely surpassing the April figures.”
They suggested the “increasingly alarming rhetoric of the Russian officials” and the build-up of weaponry suggests they are planning to act in the coming weeks.
However, there are signs that the build-up may not be intended for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but instead devastating military action against Kyiv forces.
“Such an operation would apparently demonstrate Russia’s resolve in protecting itself from the NATO threat (as opposed to the Alliance members’ reluctance to render direct military aid to Ukraine) and allow to hold talks from a stronger position.”
The accumulation of Russian forces suggests a limited war – “the planned operation is unlikely to entail a capture of large areas or big cities of Ukraine, let alone a drive to the Dnipro river and an occupation of the entire eastern half of the country.”
Close Putin aide Yuri Ushakov claimed that Putin had spelled out his demands and the importance of talks with the West in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna over the east-west strains to Biden.
These include a promise that Ukraine will not join NATO and a ban on deploying Western strike missiles across a swathe of Eastern Europe.
Ushakov claimed Biden had accepted the Russian argument, saying: “In principle, the US president agreed with this point of view, and reacted in an absolutely adequate and serious way.”
The US read-out of the talks stressed Biden had warned Putin that any progress depended on “de-escalation rather than escalation”.
Biden warned Putin of devastating sanctions should he go to war in Ukraine while the Russian leader hit back that this would lead to a “total breakdown in relations between our countries”.
“It doesn’t mean anything because we don’t know what these massive sanctions are, but we know they would be a colossal mistake that could lead to the most serious consequences,” said Ushakov.
“We hope that won’t happen. That’s why we, the Americans and other Western countries are starting a negotiating process along three tracks.”
It comes just days after a US spy plane was spotted over Ukraine “for the first time”.
The US E-8C JStar, photographed in Ukrainian airspace on Monday, has the ability to gather and display detailed information from the ground below.
Updates are delivered in real-time to Army and Marine Corps stations as well as other intelligence officials.
Moscow previously hit out at the US for interfering in issues on Russia’s “doorstep” and said they would not sit back and watch idly.