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Posted by admin on Sep 21, 2018

The TelegraphOnly a month ago, a Ukrainian soldier was killed by sniper fire at the spot where Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, is now standing. This is the front line of the West’s new war with Russia. Two hundred yards away, Russian-backed separatists are in position, their sniper rifles at the ready. Protected by helmet and body armour, Mr Williamson is surveying the remains of a hospital, its walls bullet-riddled and the windows blown out. Separatist fighters had targeted it with mortars  and machine gun fire from across the fields that now represent an illegal de facto border between Ukraine and Russian-occupied territory outside Marinka, a satellite town about three miles to the west of Donetsk.  Mr Williamson had deployed forward from the safety of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital city, to see for himself the effects of what he called Russia’s “brazen and reckless” act of initiating the conflict in the east of the country.  Britain will increase military support to its ally by sending Royal Marines later this year and increase the presence of Royal Navy patrols in the Black Sea in 2019.  Odessa, Ukraine’s biggest port, located in the west of the country, is expected to come under pressure from the Russian Navy over the coming months as they try to effect an economic blockade. Gavin Williamson with troops in the contested region of Ukraine. September 18th 2018. Tension with Russia after Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution in 2014 led to separatists, backed by regular Russian military units, seizing Crimea and a large swathe of Ukrainian territory along the border. More than 10,000 lives have been lost in the conflict. Mr Williamson’s Ukrainian hosts watched nervously as the Secretary of State surveyed the damage, mindful that he stay on the paved surface. The fields either side are now feared to have been planted with landmines hidden beneath the soil.  The Ukrainian soldier killed last month had been shot at from a house on the Russian separatist side of the frontline. Mr Williamson became on Tuesday the first western minister outside of Ukraine to experience the frontline - and Vladimir Putin’s land grab - at such close proximity. He may as well have been sauntering down Whitehall. “The Kremlin is trying to undermine our values, destroy our way of life, and reverse the outcome of the Cold War,” said Mr Williamson, 42. “Its behaviour only increases the risk of miscalculation and the prospect of crisis turning to chaos.”  There needs to be a response to Russian encroachment. We’ve got to make it clear that there is a price to be paid for such actionsDefence Secretary Gavin Williamson The Mi-8 Hip helicopter taking us east towards the 300 mile-long Line of Control, the new, illegal border with Russia, had raced forward at 120 knots, pulling up sharply to get over trees and power lines. Twenty-six Ukrainian aircraft have been shot down by Russian-supplied surface to air missiles since the conflict started, so the pilots take no chances and cling to the safety of the folds in the earth.  Some 35,000 Russian-backed separatists and an estimated 4,000 regular Russian troops are located in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine. Holding them back are around 60,000 Ukrainian forces. The Kremlin tried to break the will of the Ukrainian people, Mr Williamson said, but the nation came together against such a blatant act of aggression. “What you’ve seen is an independent free nation that has been attacked by a powerful neighbour and we’ve seen men and women come together to repel that invasion and push back those that would wish to do them harm,” he told the Telegraph, accompanying him on the visit.   “Vladimir Putin and his cronies around him want to abuse their power. This is not the type of behaviour we expect of any nation, let alone one that sits as a permanent member of the Security Council. [Russia is becoming] a pariah nation.”  The Defence Secretary receives a brief in a hardened bunker from the Ukrainian General in command of the operational area.  Around 300,000 people liv

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