‘Ukraine crisis won’t affect Spain’s gas supply’

Spain's foreign minister said on Monday the political crisis in the Ukraine would have no affect on the country's gas supply and criticized the European Union for not looking at alternative supplies in northern Africa.

'Ukraine crisis won't affect Spain's gas supply'
An image of Russian President Vladimir Putin at a recent carnival parade in Dusseldorf, Germany. Photo: Patrick Stollarz/AFP

A confrontation with Russia over developments in Ukraine would have "very serious consequences" for energy security in Europe, said Spain's foreign minister José Manuel García Margallo in comments made after a emergency meeting of EU ministers in Brussels.

Spain's top diplomat joined the EU in condemning "acts of aggression" by Russia in their decision to deploy troops in Crimea and also joined the EU in calling for Russian troops to return to barracks within 48 hours.

Margallo went on to highlight the need for dialogue with Russia over the Ukraine crisis saying the two parties were "condemned to come to an understanding".

But Margallo went off script to criticize the EU for over-reliance on Russian for gas supply. He highlighted the fact that Ukraine relied on Russia for "all" of its gas, while Europe received some 35 percent of its supplies from Russia.

Europe had been "miopic" in not "guaranteeing the interconnection between Spain and the rest of Europe" of supplies from Algeria and northern Africa, said the minister.

This "could be a good moment to reflect", he added. 

Opinions are divided on whether, and to what extent, Europe's gas supplies are threatened by the crisis in The Ukraine.

Many European nations have built up their own gas reserves since a 2005 crisis which saw lower pipe pressure in Europe after Ukraine refused to pay when Russian gas giant Gazprom more than doubled its prices.

Demand for gas is also low after a warm winter in Europe and stockpiles mean the Ukraine crisis won't affect gas prices, according to financial news agency Bloomberg.

But Margallo said on Monday Spain would "not be affected anyway" because it obtained supplies from northern Africa.

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Spain backtracks and will send weapons to ‘Ukraine resistance’

Spain will supply "offensive military hardware" to Ukraine following Russia's invasion of its pro-Western neighbour, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told parliament on Wednesday, only two days after he'd ruled out that Spain would send weapons to Ukraine separately from the EU.

Spain backtracks and will send weapons to 'Ukraine resistance'

“I want to announce to you that Spain will also deliver offensive military hardware to the Ukrainian resistance,” Sánchez said.

Until now, Spain’s Prime Minister stressed he would send military support only as part of a wider package unveiled by the European Union on Sunday, in which Brussels agreed to unblock €450 million ($500 million) for member states to buy arms for Ukraine.

Before Sánchez’s announcement, Spain was left as the only large EU country that was not going to send weapons to Ukrainian forces individually in the form of a bilateral agreement.

Members of governing coalition party Unidas Podemos have criticised that the EU is contributing weaponry to the conflict, which may explain why Sánchez was dragging his feet on the matter.

But the Spanish government has finally backtracked and will send “offensive military hardware” to the Ukrainian resistance.

In an interview on Wednesday with Antena3 television, Defence Minister Margarita Robles said that “in this first shipment that will go aboard two planes, we expect to send 1,370 anti-tank grenade launchers, 700,000 rifle and machine-gun rounds, and light machine guns”. 

The only EU nations that won’t send weapons directly to Ukraine are currently Ireland, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Malta and Cyprus.

Sánchez said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine “is a brutal attempt to stop the construction of a European space based on values radically opposed to the authoritarianism he represents”.

The announcement comes a day after Spain said it would send 150 additional troops to Latvia as part of a wider Nato build-up in the Baltic region.

READ MORE: Spain to take in Ukrainian refugees and send troops to Latvia

The country already has 350 troops in the alliance’s enhanced forward presence battlegroup in Latvia.

The United States, Canada and more than a dozen European countries have so far responded to Ukrainian appeals for military equipment.