Ukraine crisis talks in Madrid ‘useful’: EU

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton held "useful" talks in Madrid with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday over the spiralling crisis in Ukraine, a European source said.

Ukraine crisis talks in Madrid 'useful': EU
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Brussels on Monday after an emergency EU summit on the Ukraine crisis. Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP

"We had a useful discussion which lasted over an hour," a European diplomatic source quoted Ashton as saying after the meeting held in the Russian ambassador's residence in Madrid.

The Russian foreign minister then met Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Spanish King Juan Carlos.

Lavrov is scheduled to meet Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo on Wednesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lavrov said that threats of sanctions against Moscow were counter-productive and would not change its position on the Ukraine crisis.

"Our position is honest and… will not change," he told a news conference in Tunisia, where he was on an official visit.

"We have always opposed the policy of unilateral sanctions. I hope our partners understand that such actions are counter-productive."

Western powers have been wrestling with how to respond to Russia's threat to use force against Ukraine, where president Viktor Yanukovych was driven from power following three months of protests that culminated in days of carnage.

EU foreign ministers warned Moscow on Monday to de-escalate or risk sanctions, including the suspension of long-running talks on easing EU visa requirements for Russian citizens. EU leaders are meeting to discuss the crisis on Thursday.

Washington has suspended military cooperation with Moscow, and the Kremlin has responded to US warnings, saying sanctions against Russia "would end in a crash for the financial system of the United States".

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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.