Russia has announced another 15 of its warships will sail into the Black Sea amid rising tensions with the US over Ukraine.
It is the latest military muscle flex by Vladimir Putin as he was accused of plotting an attack as he mobilised tens of thousands of troops.
The 15 vessels will sail through a network of canals, rivers and waterways as they make their way from the Caspian Sea via the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.
New footage today also showed Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on manoeuvres – while Ukraine also conducted naval exercises off Crimea.
This included frigate Admiral Makarov, small missile ships Graivoron and Vyshny Volochek, air-cushion missile ship Samum, minesweeper Ivan Golubets, as well as large landing ships.
And a further three Russian warships, the Minsk, the Kaliningrad and the Korolyev, have believed to have set sail from the Baltic heading for the Black Sea.
Russia is also known to be moving landing ships from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea for the first time since the end of the Soviet era.
It comes as the first of two US warships, thought to be the USS Donald Cook and USS Roosevelt, are expected to arrive in the region today, despite Russian warnings to stay away “for their own good.”
Following the announcement of the latest warshipmoves, a spokesman Russian navy said : “In the sea, the crews of the ships will conduct single and joint test artillery fires at surface and air targets.
“The role of a simulated enemy will be played by naval target shields.”
He also added that, in addition to ships, aeroplanes and helicopters of naval aviation along with air defence of the fleet will be involved in the check.
Tensions are rising in the region as it is feared Putin may be preparing for another land grab from Ukraine as he masses troops along eastern border with the former Soviet state.
The Russian leader has reportedly now moved tens of thousands of troops and heavy military equipment to the border with Ukraine, prompting a phone call from Joe Biden to tell the Russian leader to stand down.
The latest on-the-ground videos appear to show heavy armaments on the move in Krasnodar region and naval vessels on the Don River as the Ukraine crisis becomes increasingly hostile.
A veteran independent Russian defence analyst has claimed Putin may have ordered the mobilisation of “more than half a million” troops – involving forces from the Pacific to the Baltic.
Asked if Russia was “on the doorstep of war”, Pavel Felgenhauer told Ekho Moscow radio: “Practically, we are.”
He added: “An unprecedented mobilisation of the Russian armed forces is taking place. This has not happened either since 1973, or since 1962.
“The exact number of people participating is not officially indicated. Apparently more than half a million.”
Felgenhauer claimed that the main Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine “will be occupied in the course of a victorious and fleeting blitzkrieg”.
Blitzkrieg is a method of warfare which leads to a quick victory and limits the loss of soldiers and artillery.
It comes after Putin snubbed Biden’s call for peace talks as fears of war mount over Russia’s build-up of troops at the Ukrainian border.
The US president urged Putin to ease mounting tensions with neighbouring Ukraine during a phone call with the Russian leader yesterday.
Biden spoke of his “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
And he proposed a summit meeting “in the coming months” to “discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia”.
But the Kremlin said it was “premature” to talk about a possible meeting.
Although Russia said it would “continue dialogue” with the United States, it declined the offer for a first summit with Biden.
Meanwhile, Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russian state-run outlets RT and Sputnik claimed a conflict is now inevitable between the US and Russia amid the crisis.
She said: “In a conventional war, we could defeat Ukraine in two days. But it will be another kind of war.
“We’ll do it, and then the US will respond by turning off power to the Russian city Voronezh.”
It comes as British forces are helping Ukraine monitor Russia’s huge military build-up, reports the Mirror.
A small team of UK special forces has been deployed to the region along with specialist communications troops from a Royal Signals detachment and a RAF spy plane.
This squadron of RAF Typhoons will be armed with pave way bombs and brimstone missiles will also be deployed to Romania’s Black Sea coast.
The backing follows NATO’s “unwavering support” for the western military alliance’s with Ukraine after they previously warned Moscow not to push its troop buildup along Russia’s border with the neighbouring country.
Yet this latest move signals their intent of a state that only last week claimed on TV whether it would soon be able to “deNazify” Ukraine.
In a prime-time Russian state TV broadcast on Sunday evening, Putin ‘propagandist’ Dmitry Kiselyovc claimed Europe was “one step away from war.”
– The Sun (US)