This has been proven to be inaccurate….
By Dan Bloom
Published: 10 April 2014
Nato images infuriated Kremlin which claimed they were taken last year
Alliance insisted threat is real and said troops are at more than 100 sites
Many of the sites appeared to be fields and not established bases
Pro-Russians remain barricaded inside government buildings for sixth day
Ukraine requests urgent gas supplies from EU as Russia switches to China
U.S. troops to be deployed to Nato states in eastern Europe next week
Shock satellite images reveal how Russia has amassed 40,000 troops, tanks and fighter jets just 30 miles from the Ukrainian border.
Nato, which released the photographs, claimed the military forces could invade within just 12 hours if given orders from Moscow.
The photos have provoked a furious diplomatic row between Nato and the Kremlin, which claims they were taken last year. But Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted the threat was real.
Fighter jets: Nato images show some of the 40,000 Russian troops its says are massed on Ukraine’s borders
Claims: The same image when zoomed out, which claims to show several types of fighter jet including MiG-31s
Troops had been spotted at more than 100 sites, he said, many of which appeared to be fields and not established bases.
‘Russia is stirring up ethnic tensions in eastern Ukraine and provoking unrest,’ he added.
‘And Russia is using its military might to dictate that Ukraine should become a federal, neutral state. That is a decision which only Ukraine as a sovereign state can make.’
Several images dated March 26 and taken around the Russian town of Belgorod, 25 miles from the Ukraine border, showed units of a motorised rifle regiment, Mil Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters, tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, supply and transport vehicles, according to NATO.
They were taken by a commercial satellite firm called Digital Globe and also showed units of a motorised rifle regiment, a ‘probable’ anti-tank battalion and artillery on March 27. There are even field hospitals, it was claimed.
Ramshackle: Nato said many of the troops were not on official bases and had instead set up in Russian fields
One Nato commander claimed the troops were ‘ready to go’ and could invade within just 12 hours.
British Brigadier Gary Deakin told journalists at Nato’s headquarters in Belgium: ‘This is a force that is very capable, at high readiness, and, as we have illustrated through the imagery, is close to routes and lines of communication.
‘It has the resources to be able to move quickly into Ukraine if it was ordered to do so.’
According to state-run news agency RIA, a senior official claimed the images were taken last August.
It quoted the figure as saying: ‘These photographs that were distributed by NATO depict units of Russian forces of the Southern Military District which conducted various exercises last summer, some of them near the border with Ukraine.’
Nato replied the correct dates were clearly shown on each image.
The development came as pro-Russian activists remained barricaded for a sixth day inside Ukrainian government buildings in two cities where they declared sovereign ‘People’s Republics’.
Hands off: A pro-Russian in Luhansk today with a barricade bearing a stark warning to the West. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia of bankrolling the unrest by using ‘paid operatives’ and ‘provocateurs’
Stand-off: Barricades remain today for the sixth day in the eastern cities of Luhansk, pictured, and Donetsk
U.S. out: Pro-Russians outside the seized security service building in Luhansk yesterday. Russia has accused an American security firm, Greystone, of sending a 150-strong ‘private army’ to Ukraine. It refused to comment
East v West: Unrest has flared in eastern Ukraine, whose residents have strong ethnic ties to Russia. Last month Russia annexed Crimea – and now separatists in Moldova say they want to join Russia too
UKRAINE’S URGENT GAS FROM EU… AS RUSSIA PICKS CHINA INSTEAD
The gas pipelines which have always flowed from east to west – and through Ukraine – could see a historic reversal within days.
Ukraine is in urgent talks to secure gas from firms in Germany in France, it emerged today.
Thousands of miles away on the Arctic tundra, Russia is pushing its exports more aggressively to China.
Moscow wants to ship liquefied natural gas from 200 wells on the Yamal peninsula to Asian buyers in tankers, as part of a £16billion project.
It is a significant departure from Russia’s usual business model, which always involved pumping the gas to the EU through pipelines.
The scheme has been long in the planning but has assumed special significance thanks to sanctions over the Crimean crisis.
Russia’s reserves of Arctic gas are thought to stand at more than 30 trillion cubic metres.
Car bumpers, tyres, and razor wire surrounded the buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk, just a few miles from the border with Russia, as supporters rallied round in bitter cold.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk visited Donetsk today where he promised to hand the Russian-speaking region more of its own powers – as long as it remains part of Ukraine.
But the meeting was only with elected leaders and not the masked separatists behind the barricades.
The U.S. has directly accused Russia of bankrolling the unrest with ‘paid operatives’ and ‘provocateurs’.
It is feared a crackdown on pro-Russians could prompt Moscow to send in ‘rescue’ troops and annex the east of Ukraine, as it did with the country’s Crimean Peninsula last month.
The U.S. has sent a warship, the destroyer USS Donald Cook, to the region and it arrived in the Black Sea yesterday for exercises.
American leaders have also threatened tougher sanctions against Russia.
Yesterday Nato’s top military commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, said U.S. troops will be deployed to alliance states in eastern Europe, which do not include Ukraine itself, next week.
‘Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies,’ he said.
‘I’m tasked to deliver this by next week. I fully intend to deliver it early.’
He said he wanted to avoid deploying troops but added Russian’s force was ‘ready to go essentially at command. We talk about inside of 12 hours’.
Nato’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said troops from the U.S. could be sent to allies in eastern Europe that feel threatened by the conflict between Ukraine and Russia
Huddling: Pro-Russian activists warm themselves near a fire near the barricades in Luhansk today
Activists: Pro-Russians in Luhansk. Demonstrators have been holed up inside a former KGB building for almost six days where they demanded a referendum on independence and declared a ‘sovereign republic’
Meanwhile, Moscow has refused to extradite Ukraine’s ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich – who fled to Russia after he was unseated – and claims he is the ‘fully fledged, legitimate president’.
Ukraine’s new authorities began seeking Yanukovich’s extradition in February soon after he fled the capital Kiev.
On Wednesday Ukraine arrested a 23-year-old woman from Moscow who it claimed was a Russian spy stirring unrest.
Photos posted online by Maria Koleda showed her in a floral dress clutching a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and in camouflage clothes stroking a kitten.
Counter-claims have seen the Kremlin accuse Greystone Ltd, a U.S. security firm which was once affiliated to the infamous warzone contractors Blackwater, of sending a 150-strong ‘private army’ to Ukraine disguised as local forces.
A Greystone representative declined to comment when contacted by MailOnline this week.
Stand-off: Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in the city of Donetsk today, just a few miles from the Russian border, where he promised to give individual regions more power but appealed for peace
Flag-waving: The siege in Luhansk entered its sixth day today despite bitterly cold conditions