Ukraine on a knife-edge amid fears of war despite Moscow claiming to back off

Ukraine was on a knife-edge amid fears of an early hours invasion from Russia despite recent claims coming from Moscow that they maybe deescalating and easing tensions

Russia’s Defense Ministry shares tanks moving back to base

Ukraine was on a knife-edge tonight amid fears of an early hours Russian attack – despite Moscow appearing to back off.

The country’s leaders tonight sent out a desperate plea to NATO for emergency equipment as they prepared for invasion.

Chillingly this included radiation and chemical detection hardware.

Among its other demands are medical supplies, excavation tools, explosive detectors and more mobile field hospitals.

In a statement NATO said: “The State Emergency Service of Ukraine is preparing for large-scale emergencies of various nature.”

And capital Kyiv was hit by a major cyber assault amid fears a web attack on crucial systems could pave the way for an invasion – as American intelligence agencies suspected Vladimir Putin could order a 3am assault.

Some forces reportedly returned from areas close to Ukraine to permanent bases in Russia’s Western and Southern military districts
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It meant Russia may plan to target Ukraine’s military and government command and control centers with a barrage of air strikes before tanks roll over the border.

Kyiv’s cybersecurity center said websites of the defense ministry and banks Privatbank and Oshadbank were under attack – and Russia could be to blame. Experts have previously warned a cyber assault could be the opening salvo of a full military strike.

Ukrainian servicemen take part in a ceremony at a monument to soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan war in the 1979-1989
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Europe may be hours from war, despite last-ditch diplomatic moves and a possible standing down of some Kremlin troops.

Senior sources said an attack would be “almost certainly from multiple points” over Ukraine’s southern, eastern and northern flanks. A senior American source warned our team in Kyiv, saying: “3am Wednesday.”

A dramatic day began with claims of some Russian units stationed near the border were returning to their bases – fueling hopes the crisis was easing.

Russian tanks leaving for Russia after joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus
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The Interfax news agency cited the Kremlin defense ministry as saying some units of the southern and western military districts had finished drills and were returning.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed: “15 February, 2022, will go down in history as the day Western war propaganda failed – humiliated and destroyed without a single shot fired.”

But tens of thousands of Kremlin forces remained poised on Ukraine’s frontiers, in neighboring Belarus and on board warships in the Black Sea last night.

Senior military sources were skeptical about Russia’s claims, some of its troops were withdrawing – as they could be engineers who set up bases.

One source in Kyiv told the Mirror: “There is no evidence of this so-called withdrawal. Putin is running rings round everyone, meanwhile serious analysts looking at the evidence of troop and equipment movements still believe an attack is imminent.

Russia said on February 15 it was pulling back some of its forces near the Ukrainian border to their bases
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“Certainly these are the indications and no Russian claims to the contrary are backed with evidence that they are all going back to base.”

Russian political leaders deny Western accusations it is planning to invade, but say Moscow could take unspecified “military-technical” action unless a range of demands are met – including barring Kyiv from ever joining the NATO alliance.

Despite the warning from America it is still believed there is a chance of halting war – but that is fading rapidly. Speaking after chairing a meeting of the Whitehall emergencies committee COBRA, Boris Johnson warned of mixed messages from the front line.

He said intelligence suggested “you have got more battalion tactical groups being brought closer to the border… so mixed signals”.

The Prime Minister called for Russian activity to be “scaled back”. “I think what everybody needs to see is a program of de-escalation,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint press conference with German Chancellor following their meeting about Ukraine security at the Kremlin
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“That means withdrawing the battalion tactical groups away from a potential theater of conflict, not constructing field hospitals on the border with Belarus – a sense that things are being scaled back, scaled down, that the threat is over and that a conversation is beginning. ”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned Europe stood on the brink of war – and an invasion would unleash “severe consequences” for the continent. She said: “We know or we believe that Vladimir Putin has not yet made a decision about whether to invade Ukraine. We think it’s highly likely.

“There are huge numbers of troops lined up on the border.

“We know that they’re in a position to attack imminently, but he can still change his mind and that is why diplomacy is so vital.

“We could be on the brink of a war in Europe, which would have severe consequences not just for the people of Russia and Ukraine, but also for the broader security of Europe.”

A serviceman of the Donetsk People’s Militia holds a fragment of a shell fired at the front line near the rural town of Staromikhailovka, west of Donetsk
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Frantic diplomatic efforts intensified as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Moscow for crunch talks with the Russian president. Speaking through a translator, Mr Scholz said it was “our damn responsibility” to prevent war.

Ms Truss held negotiations with Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, while Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is due to meet NATO defense ministers in Brussels today.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson last night spoke to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. A No10 spokesman said the Prime Minister “welcomed the unity of allies, but said more could be done to strengthen coordinated measures”.

Bloc leaders are said to be frustrated with Mr Scholz for refusing to say a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany would not be switched on if the Kremlin invades.

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