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UKRAINE

Spain to send more weapons to Ukraine

The Spanish government on Friday said it would send a new shipment of weapons to Ukraine in light of the ongoing Russian invasion, without detailing what would be supplied after an initial dispatch of grenade launchers, machine guns and ammo.

Spain to send more weapons to Ukraine
Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces examine new armament, including NLAW anti-tank systems and other portable anti-tank grenade launchers, in Kyiv on March 9, 2022, amid the ongoing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV / AFP)

Asked about the nature of the new shipment to Kyiv, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares, refused to give specifics.

But he insisted it was “to help Ukraine and its army defend its independence, its sovereignty and above all to protect defenceless civilians”.

“If we really want to help Ukraine… the less we speak about weapons, what type and where they’re coming from, the better,” he told Spain’s TVE public television.

Defence Minister Margarita Robles said late Thursday Spain would send a second delivery “in the coming days”.

“We have already sent a first consignment and depending on how circumstances evolve, we will send another in the next few days with one aim: so Ukraine’s citizens can protect and legitimately defend themselves against this terrible invasion by Russia,” she told Telecinco TV channel.

Despite the reservations of his hard-left coalition ally Podemos, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez last week said Spain would send “the Ukrainian resistance offensive military hardware”.

Robles later said that the hardware, which was delivered by plane to the border between Ukraine and Poland, comprised 1,370 grenade launchers, 700,000 rounds of ammunition and an unspecified number of light machine guns.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell on Friday suggested that the bloc double its funding for military aid to Ukraine, raising it to 1 billion euros ($1.1billion) to help it battle Russia’s invasion.

Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine, now in its third week, has seen Western countries sharply increase supplies of military aid to their pro-Western ally.

But Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov has denounced the European Union and other countries for acting “dangerously” in supplying arms to Ukraine.

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UKRAINE

Russia expels dozens of Spanish and other European diplomats

Moscow on Wednesday kicked out 27 diplomats from Spain, as well as dozens more from France and Italy in retaliation for the expulsion of Russian diplomats from European countries as part of a joint action against Russia's campaign in Ukraine.

Russia expels dozens of Spanish and other European diplomats

Spain has lashed out at Russia for expelling 27 Spanish diplomats in what appeared to be a tit-for-tat response over a similar move by Madrid against Russian diplomats over the Ukraine conflict.

The employees of the Spanish embassy in Moscow and the Spanish Consulate General in Saint Petersburg “have been declared persona non grata” and will have seven days to leave Russia.

 “Russian authorities justify this decision on grounds of reciprocity for the expulsion of 27 Russian embassy officials in April. But that expulsion was based on justified security reasons, which are not present in this case,” a foreign ministry statement said.

The Spanish decision was taken in early April just days after dozens of bodies in civilian clothing were found on the streets of Bucha just outside Kyiv following the withdrawal of Russian troops, raising allegations of Russian war crimes.

At the time, the foreign ministry said it would expel the Russian diplomats on grounds they were “a threat to (Spain’s) interests and security”.

The Russian ambassador was not among those asked to leave.

The ministry told Spanish ambassador Marcos Gómez Martínez that the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Madrid “would have a negative impact on Russian-Spanish relations”.

Spain’s decision was part of a coordinated move across Europe that saw more than 200 Russian envoys sent home in 48 hours on grounds of alleged spying or “national security reasons” as outrage grew over the atrocities in Ukraine.

More European diplomats expelled

Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement it was expelling 34 “employees of French diplomatic missions” in Russia and gave them two weeks to leave the country.

Moscow made the announcement after summoning France’s ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, and telling him that the expulsion of 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions was a “provocative and unfounded decision”, the statement said.

While there was no official statement, the foreign ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed to Russian news agencies that 24 Italian diplomats had also been expelled.

The foreign ministry in Paris said France “strongly condemns” the expulsion of its diplomats by Russia, adding that this step from Moscow had “no legitimate basis”.

It said the work of French diplomats in Russia “takes place fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations” — whereas Paris expelled Russian staff in April on suspicion of being spies.

‘Hostile act’

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi condemned the expulsions as a “hostile act” but said diplomatic channels must remain open “because it’s through those channels that, if possible, peace (in Ukraine) will be achieved”.

Separately, municipal lawmakers in Moscow on Wednesday backed a decision to name a previously unnamed area in front of the US embassy in Moscow “Donbas Defenders Square”.

The name refers to a majority Russian-speaking region in eastern Ukraine that Russia says it is liberating as part of its military campaign.

In February 2018, a street outside the Russian embassy in Washington was named after Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician who was shot dead outside the Kremlin in 2015.

President Vladimir Putin in late February sent troops into Ukraine, saying the campaign aimed to stop the “genocide” of Russian speakers in the pro-Western country.

In response Moscow has faced a barrage of international sanctions and growing isolation from the global community as relations with the West deteriorate to Cold War levels.

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