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UK to send 1,300 troops to Nato exercise in Poland in show of strength

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon says it is important to underline Nato's commitment to the collective security of its members

More than 1,300 British troops are to take part in a major Nato exercise in Eastern Europe in a further show of strength by the Western alliance in the face of Russia's continuing “destabilisation” of Ukraine.

Speaking on a visit to Warsaw, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, said that the UK would be sending a full battle group to take part in Exercise Black Eagle in Poland this autumn, in the largest British commitment to the region since 2008.

The announcement came as David Cameron and other key EU leaders agreed to press for a final deal on far reaching economic sanctions against Moscow targeting Russia's defence, energy and financial sectors.

In a conference call with US president Barack Obama, Mr Cameron, Germany's chancellor Angel Merkel, French president Francois Hollande and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, all accepted measures should be in place as "soon as possible", Downing St said.


A No 10 source said that they now hoped to see them push forward on the so-called "Tier 3" measures at a meeting tomorrow of EU ambassadors, although the source acknowledged that it would require agreement of all 28 nations.

"There was a clear sense that the European members states on the call would like to see agreement tomorrow, but until it is done it is not done. But we think it is important to make progress," the source said.

If agreed, the measures are expected to go beyond the existing travel bans and asset freezes against individuals and hit Russia's access to European capital markets and trade in the defence sector and sensitive technologies in the energy sector.

Earlier, Mr Fallon, on a joint visit to Poland with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, said that it was important to underline Nato's commitment to the collective security of its members at a time of heightened tensions in the region.

"It is right that Nato members and partners demonstrate our commitment to the collective security of our allies in Eastern Europe," he said.

"In particular, the commitment of a battle group to Exercise Black Eagle shows our sustained and substantial support to Nato's eastern border."

He said that the issue would also be high on the agenda when Nato leaders gather for their summit in Wales in September.

"We have a strong opportunity at the Nato summit to discuss how we will continue our response to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and its destabilisation of eastern Ukraine," he said.

"The UK is playing a central role and we are not ruling out further enhancements."

In all, Britain is to deploy 1,350 personnel and more than 350 armoured and other vehicles to take part in Exercise Black Eagle.

Since Russia's annexation of Crimea, the UK has deployed RAF Typhoon jets to the Nato Baltic air policing mission, as well as participating in smaller scale army exercises across Europe.

At the end of August light infantry troops from 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, will take part in the US-led Exercise Sabre Junction, which is also taking place in Poland.