Vladimir Putin’s terrifying threat of invasion into EU: ‘Troops in Europe in two days’
Ukraine invasion fears as Putin faces Covid backlash in Russia
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US President Joe Biden warned last week that he will make any attempt by Russia to invade Ukraine “very, very difficult”. His comments come as the US and Ukraine say Russia is amassing troops near the border between the two European countries. The Kremlin denies the allegations, and on Friday said that a video call would take place soon between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mr Biden. The US imposed sanctions on Russia after the Kremlin’s forces annexed Crimea in 2014.
Washington has since supported the Ukraine government with military aid as the US sought to stop Russia gaining political authority in eastern Europe, a region on NATO’s doorstep.
This isn’t the first time the threat of invasion into Ukraine has emerged, as shown by reports in September 2014.
President Putin privately warned Poland, Romania and the Baltic states about Russia’s military strength, according to a record of a conversation with then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
These countries are all part of the EU, the bloc that Ukraine was also looking to join at the time.
According to Suddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, Mr Putin told Mr Poroshenko in 2014: “If I wanted, in two days I could have Russian troops not only in Kiev, but also in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest.”
The statement, if made in these terms, represented the first time Mr Putin had discussed the idea of having Russian troops in an EU or NATO member states.
The warning he could send Russian troops into the capitals of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Romania threatened to spark yet more hostility between NATO and Russia.
Mr Putin’s alleged threat bears similarities to remarks he made to Jose Manuel Barroso, former EU Commission President, in September 2014, in which he reportedly warned: “If I want to, I can take Kiev in two weeks.”
The same week the threat emerged, Ukraine ratified a historic Association Agreement with the EU, placing the country on the path towards eventual EU membership.
The Baltic nations expressed fear in 2014, but then-US President Barack Obama vowed to protect countries from Russia’s aggression.
He said: “If you ever ask again ‘who will come to help?’ you’ll know the answer: the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America.
“We’ll be here for Estonia. We will be here for Latvia. We will be here for Lithuania.”
Last month, Mr Putin boasted that Russia has succeeded in raising the spectre of a threat over Ukraine and said he must keep the US and its allies on edge.
He said: “Our recent warnings have been noticed and had an effect. A certain tension has appeared there.
“We need for this condition to remain as long as possible, so nobody gets it into their head to cause a conflict we don’t need on our western borders.”
As Europe grapples with a migrant crisis on the border of Poland and Belarus, a diplomat from eastern Europe told The Times last week: “Refugees are a very sophisticated weapon if they are weaponised.”
They were referring to fears that Russia could use migrants to seize the Suwałki Corridor — a 60 mile sliver of territory between Poland and Lithuania.
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Under such a scenario, Russia could push migrants into the corridor and stoke unrest.
Russian troops could then sweep in and deploy military patrols along the corridor under the guise of a humanitarian crisis, The Times reported.
While Ukraine is not in NATO, it has toyed with the idea for the past couple of decades.
In June this year, NATO leaders reiterated the decision first taken in 2008 for the country to become a member of the Alliance with the Membership Action Plan (MAP).
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