Daily Mail

RAF’s Black Sea patrols as Russia ‘a step from war’

- By Mark Nicol Defence Editor

SIX Royal Air Force Typhoon super-jets will fly to eastern Europe in a bid to deter Russian president Vladimir Putin who has sent troops to the Ukrainian border.

Last night UK defence chiefs confirmed the RAF deployment to Romania to police the skies around the Black Sea.

The Typhoons will be supported by troops from the RAF’s No 1 Expedition­ary Logistics Squadron and No 2 Mechanical Transport Squadron. They are deploying from bases in the UK this week.

While the Ministry of Defence insists these deployment­s are routine, it come at a time of heightened fears of conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Last night, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said he was still waiting after requesting talks with Putin nearly three weeks ago following the deaths of four of his troops in a Russian mortar attack. His spokesman said: ‘We very much hope that this is not a refusal of dialogue.’

According to the Ukrainian government, Russia has sent 41,000 troops to the border in eastern Ukraine and 42,000 to Crimea and these numbers ‘ keep growing’. While the Kremlin has tried to claim it is an exercise, not a threat, Russian state TV yesterday warned Moscow is ‘one step away from war’. More than 14,000 people have been killed since Russia annexed eastern Ukraine in 2014 and efforts to negotiate a peace settlement have failed.

Security experts fear Russia may reoccupy eastern Ukraine on the pretence of protecting native Russian speakers there.

Nato has voiced concern over the build-up of Russian forces.

The Typhoons’ deployment is part of an annual Nato air policing mission, Operation Biloxi. Up to 100 British infantry troops are also expected to be sent to Ukraine to take part in joint exercises with its soldiers this summer.

The Ministry of Defence said: ‘Operation Biloxi is a longplanne­d deployment of RAF Typhoons to Romania in support of the Nato Southern Air Policing mission to monitor the airspace of our ally.’

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