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Russia has prepared 1,800 tanks and 4,000 armoured vehicles 'for invasion in ten days'

By James Callery and Jamie Phillips For Mailonline,


Ukraine is prepared to use British long-range missiles to strike the annexed peninsula of Crimea - as Russia readies thousands of tanks and armoured vehicles ahead of a 'new wave of attacks'.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pushing for the West to supply jets and longer-range missiles, warning that the war could 'stagnate' without them.

Rishi Sunak has responded to his plea by admitting 'nothing is off the table' when it comes to the UK's supply of military aid to help fight the Russian invasion.

And discussions are understood to have taken place involving the potential provision of Harpoon anti-ship missiles - which have a range of 150 miles and cost around £1.2million.

Storm Shadow surface-to-air cruise missiles, with a range of around 250 miles and cost of £2.2m, are also said to be on the table, The Times reports.

Ukraine defence sources told the newspaper that Kyiv is prepared to use the missiles to strike Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

Talks are understood to be ongoing as to how many long-range missiles the UK could potentially supply - despite fears that cross-border strikes may lead to an escalation of the conflict.

READ MORE: Putin chillingly threatens a 'response' if UK gives fighter jets to Ukraine

It comes after a warning from Mr Zelensky that missiles would allow Ukraine to strike 'deep in the occupied territories'.

He said: 'You've just asked me what would happen if we don't get these fighter jets or longer-range missiles, or we don't have enough ammunition, because everything obviously is running out and coming out of maintenance.

'Without the weapons that we are discussing now and the weapons that we just discussed with Rishi earlier today and how Britain is going to help us, you know, all of this is very important.

'Without this, there would be stagnation which will not bring to anything good.'

US President Jo Biden supplied ground-launched small-diameter bombs - with a range of 93 miles - last week.

But Mr Zelensky last night accused Germany of foot-dragging over the provision of advanced weapons to help repel the invasion.

In a show of frustration, he said he was ‘constantly having to convince’ Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the case for helping to kick Russia out of his country.

His comments stand in marked contrast to his praise on Wednesday for Britain, which he said had ‘stood with Kyiv since day one, from the first seconds and minutes of the full-scale war’.

But he told German news website Spiegel: ‘I have to exert pressure to help Ukraine and constantly convince him that this help is not for us but for Europeans. Our relationship to Germany goes in waves, it is up and down.’

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian military official has estimated that Russia already has 1,800 tanks, 3,950 armoured vehicles, 810 Soviet-era multiple-rocket-launch systems and 400 fighter jets ready for 'a new wave of attacks' in the coming days.

The official, speaking to Foreign Policy, also estimated that Russia has 300 helicopters and 2,700 artillery systems prepared.

'We expect in the next 10 days a new, huge invasion,' the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ukraine is readying itself for a Russian offensive in the Donbas.

Russia has focused hundreds of thousands of troops in the east, using brute-force tactics and human waves to eat into Ukraine's defenses.

Amid a recent increase in fighting, several military analysts believe the Russian offensive is already underway and anticipate that it will heighten as the first anniversary of the invasion approaches on February 24.

Jonatan Vseviov, secretary-general of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Foreign Policy: 'Something is brewing in the east. More and more Russian soldiers are arriving on the front.'

Ukrainian officials estimate that Russian forces inside Ukraine have now exceeded 300,000 following a mobilisation effort that started in September.

Military analysts argue that the figure may be slightly less, but it would still be higher than the amount that invaded Ukraine in February last year.

In the days leading up to February 24, Western officials estimated that Russia had staged around 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s border.

This time they would have a large concentration in eastern Ukraine.

At the weekend, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that he expects the anniversary of the invasion to bring a surge in Russian operations.

Despite the haphazard nature of the recruitment drive and the lack of training given to new recruits, the mobilisation effort appears to have deployed enough troops to stave off Ukraine's advances, though Russian forces have suffered huge losses in the process.

Western officials estimate that almost 200,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in battle, the New York Times reported last week.

In an address on Sunday, Mr Zelensky said: 'There are many reports that the occupiers want to do something symbolic in February. To try to avenge their last year's defeats. We see this increased pressure in various areas of the frontline, as well as pressure in the information field.

'It is very difficult in Donetsk Oblast; there are fierce battles. But no matter how hard it is and no matter how much pressure there is, we have to withstand it.

'We have to use – and we do use – every day and every week to reinforce our defence at the front, to strengthen our international position, to increase pressure on Russia and to give our people new opportunities to get through this difficult time.

'We have no alternative but to defend ourselves and win.'

Mr Zelensky said today that 'a Ukraine that is winning' its war with Russia should be a member of the European Union, arguing the bloc would not be complete without it.

Mr Zelensky made his appeal during an emotional day at the EU's headquarters in Brussels as he wrapped up a rare, two-day trip outside Ukraine to seek more weapons from the West.

As he spoke on Thursday, a new offensive by Russia in eastern Ukraine was under way.

Ukraine's military said that over the past 24 hours Russian troops maintained offensives in the regions of Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Novopavlivka and Vuhledar.

Serhiy Haidai, Ukraine's governor of mostly Russian-occupied eastern Luhansk province, described a major new Russian assault around Kreminna, along a northern stretch of the eastern front.

Mr Zelensky, who also visited the UK and France on Wednesday, received rapturous applause and cheers from the European Parliament and a summit of the 27 EU leaders, insisting in his speech that the fight with Russia was one for the freedom of all of Europe.

'Europe will always be, and remain Europe as long as we... take care of the European way of life,' he said.

He added that membership talks should start later this year.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, however, warned that 'there is no rigid timeline'.

The bloc and its member states have already backed Kyiv with about 50 billion euros (£44 billion) in aid, provided military hardware and imposed nine packages of sanctions on the Kremlin.

The EU is in the midst of brokering a new sanctions package worth about 10 billion euros (£9 billion) before the anniversary of the war.

EU leaders have been cool on his appeal for fighter jets, voicing doubts over whether to sanction their deployment.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte said Nato leaders would first have to consider the risk that sending warplanes could drag Europe deeper into the conflict. ‘These type of decisions, you have to take behind closed doors. Because there are many sensitive issues to be discussed, the pros and cons,’ he said.

‘You have to make absolutely sure that you are not getting into an Article 5 direct confrontation between Nato and Russia.’

Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, said: ‘Our position is clear, we can only act within the entire formation of Nato. We will not be the first ones to hand over the fighter jets, but we will respond positively, provided that those who have the most of these jets will be able to give them to Ukraine.’

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace hinted at tensions within the Government over the issue as he ruled out provision of jets in the short term, saying any deal was likely to be ‘probably post-conflict’.

Mr Wallace warned it could take months or even years to supply planes.

Speaking at a conference in Italy, he said Boris Johnson’s suggestion of sending more than 100 Typhoon fighters was unrealistic.

‘This is not a simple case of towing an aircraft to the border,’ he told the BBC. ‘Britain knows what Ukraine needs and is very happy to help in many ways trying to achieve the effect. Those same effects can be done, but potentially through a different way – and without taking months, which of course gifting fighter jets would take.’

He later said that moving from supplying anti-tank missiles to providing jets was like going ‘from a bicycle to a Formula One team’.

But Rishi Sunak said a deal to train Ukrainian pilots this spring was a ‘first step’ toward supplying planes. No 10 said it would be done ‘as fast as humanly possible’.

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