RUSSIA deployed a “decoy army” of inflatable tanks, missiles and fighter jets to “trick the West” amid Ukraine tensions.
The superpower’s blow-up army was used for nation-wide military exercises.
Putin’s decoys, which can inflate within minutes, were seen in woods close to the capital city Moscow this week.
The army said: “The inflatable equipment is nearly identical to the original thanks to the use of special materials.
“It also has the same radiation background so that an enemy does not notice the deception.”
Rusbal, the company behind the blow-up forces, said the cost of fooling the enemy is a fraction of buying the real weaponry.
Among the armoury is what looks like a MiG-31 and Su-27 fighters under the cover of an anti-aircraft missile system at a mock covert airfield in the forest.
A report on the Russian Defence Ministry’s TV channel Zvezda said: “Tanks, aviation and air defence systems were moved to Moscow region so that ‘an enemy’ had a chance not only to find a hidden aerodrome, but to obtain satellite pictures, too.”
It shows the 45th engineer-camouflage regiment “armed with the most unusual equipment of the Russian army”.
It comes amid growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
This week the Russian frigate Admiral Essen launched multiple missiles into the Black Sea despite the West’s pleas to ease the tension.
It came as over 20 Black Sea Fleet warships held a joint exercise with the crews of Su-25SM3 attack aircraft of the Southern Military District’s Air Force and Air Defence Arm, reported TASS.
Some 50 warplanes were involved in the major exercises, which Russia said were routine training.
Insiders claim the state is planning a major warship assault to seize Ukraine’s water supply.
Satellite images show Russia’s expanding military line-up near Ukraine, with Su-30 fighters lined up on a runway in Crimea. They were not there last month.
And Vladimir Putin has massed more than 150,000 troops on the border in the region’s biggest ever military build-up.
Ukraine fears he is planning on putting the country in a choke-hold before invading.
Putin annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and since then more than 14,000 people have died in seven years of civil war between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in the disputed Donbass region.
A ceasefire has fallen apart in recent months with increasing outbursts of violence that threaten to erupt into a full-scale war.
In his annual state of address, Putin warned the West of “quick and tough” action against any provocation over Ukraine and jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
He added: “I hope that no one dares to cross the red line in respect to Russia, and we will determine where it is in each specific case.
“Those who organise any provocations threatening our core security interests will regret their deeds more than they regretted anything for a long time.”