Russia poses a “real and present danger” to the stability of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the UK defence secretary has warned.
Michael Fallon said that Russia may attempt to test Nato’s resolve in the Baltic states with the use of undercover military forces and propaganda to inflame ethnic tensions as he has done to great success in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Speaking to journalists from the Daily Telegraph during a flight to Sierra Leone, where British forces are helping contain the Ebola outbreak, Fallon said that he was “worried about Putin” and his “pressure on the Baltics”.
Moscow denies supporting the pro-Russia separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine despite soldiers recorded talking about their Russian units on camera, various videos of Russian military hardware crossing the border, and coffins being sent families of Russian troops that have lost their sons fighting in Ukraine.
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said that he shared Fallon’s fears about Putin’s plans for the Baltic states. He said:
“Following recent developments in eastern Ukraine, the international community must be ready to increase the pressure on the Kremlin by extending economic sanctions if President Putin refuses to change course.
“President Putin risks further isolating Russia on the world stage if he continues to display belligerence and aggression in the face of established international laws and norms.”
Meanwhile, Kiev has withdrawn its troops from the key town of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine after days of fierce fighting against the pro-Russia rebels. Debaltseve had been surrounded by the rebels for days, and they claimed that the ceasefire that supposedly came into effect last week did not apply to the town as it was within the rebel-controlled area.