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Putin sounds off starting gun to war as Russian navy stalks French frigate in Black Sea

Russia‘s Defence Ministry has said today that its Black Sea Fleet forces were tracking the French navy’s Auvergne frigate after the vessel entered the Black Sea, the Interfax news agency reported. This comes as tensions between Russia and the West are at a high as Russia builds up its military forces at the border with Ukraine.

US intelligence sources are warning that the Kremlin is preparing for a multi-front offensive, as soon as early next year, involving some 175,000 troops.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov echoed this, saying: “The most likely time to reach readiness for escalation will be the end of January.”

CIA Director William Burns added that Mr Putin “is putting the Russian military, the Russian security services in a place where they could act in a pretty sweeping way”.

In Spring 20201, a massive build-up of Russian troops near the border raised invasion concerns but the troops were eventually pulled out after a few weeks.

However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Euronews that the current build-up of troops is “unusual”.

He said: “What we see is a significant, large Russian military build-up.

“We see an unusual concentration of troops.

“And we know that Russia has been willing to use these types of military capabilities before to conduct aggressive actions against Ukraine.”

READ MORE: Russia war fears explode as EU chief warns of imminent attack

Meanwhile, speaking about the alleged invasion plans, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations said last month that Moscow “never planned, never did, and is never going to do it unless we’re provoked by Ukraine, or by somebody else.”

But just yesterday, further arms were seen arriving on Ukraine’s border.

A rail wagon containing a Buk-M1, a medium-range surface-to-air missile system, was seen being transported through south-West Russia towards Ukraine.

Earlier this week EU high representative Josep Borrel warned that the EU should be considering a variety of potential red lines that could trigger “high impact” sanctions and other “severe consequences” from the bloc and its partners, including the UK.

He said that a “hybrid attack” from Putin was likely.

This came ahead of the Eastern Partnership Summit, taking place in Brussels this Wednesday.

The Summit will see the leaders of Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan meet, with discussions likely to be dominated by the build-up of Russian military on the border with Ukraine.