Russia has strengthened its military forces in the north and west of the country to counter what Moscow perceives as a build-up of NATO forces near Russia, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

In response to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Finland has joined NATO, and Sweden is on the point of doing so. NATO is conducting a military exercise called Nordic Response 2024 this week, which it says will involve more than 20,000 soldiers in Norway, Finland, and Sweden and will focus on collective defence.

“Against the background of a build-up of NATO’s military potential near the Russian borders, the expansion of the alliance through the accession of Finland and, in the future, Sweden, we have taken steps to strengthen the groupings of troops in the north-western and western strategic directions,” Shoigu told top generals, without providing details.

The war in Ukraine has triggered the most profound crisis in Russia’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and President Vladimir Putin has warned the West that it risks provoking a nuclear war if Western troops are sent to fight in Ukraine.

Last night, the City of Sumy on the Russian border took its worst hits from drone attacks in several months as random buildings were struck, including a GP surgery.