British forces are helping Ukraine oversee Russia’s vast military build-up amid fears of an all-out war between the two neighbors.
A small team of British special forces has been stationed in the region together with specialized communications forces from a division of Royal Signals.
And Der Spiegel learned that an RAF spy plane was operating in Ukraine to soak up Russian communications for early warnings of an invasion.
Two US warships – the USS Roosevelt and the USS Donald Cook – arrived in the Black Sea over the weekend to prevent Vladimir Putin from invading.
Moscow has warned that it could conduct “full fighting” in Ukraine.
Almost 100,000 Russian troops are at the 1,500-mile border or are on the way. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian regulars and reservists were called up.
Ten of Putin’s warships are expected to arrive in the Black Sea this week to bolster the attack force.
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said he was “firmly against” Russia’s campaign to destabilize Ukraine. He added that he and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken agree that “Russia must de-escalate the situation immediately”.
A senior UK military source said: “The team is there to hear and gather information, nothing else.
“Our Special Forces work together with US colleagues and identify areas in the east of the country for [the spy plane] overfly. The picture in the region is very chaotic and confused by the propaganda of the Russians. “
Ukraine and its allies in the US and UK are trying to track down Russian GRU intelligence agents in eastern Ukraine.
The GRU is in Ukraine whipping support for Moscow in preparation for another incursion across the disputed border. The British and the US estimate that the situation is reaching a “crisis point”.
Ukraine fears that a Russian attack could be launched “within a few days”.
Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, up to 14,000 people have been killed in fighting between troops and separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.