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UKRAINE

Spain’s doors open to Russian citizens, foreign minister says

Spain's Foreign Minister has said that Russian citizens are welcome in Spain despite the EU's suspension of its visa agreement with Russia, as the mass exodus of thousands of people continues following Putin's conscription call.

Spain's doors open to Russian citizens, foreign minister says
Albares at a Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the EU Council building in Luxembourg on June 20, 2022. Photo: JOHN THYS/AFP

Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, has stated publicly that Spain’s doors are open to Russian citizens fleeing the country.

Speaking on Monday, Albares said that Spain is “totally favourable” to Russian citizens who “share our values.”

Speaking against the backdrop of mass protests in Russia against Putin’s mobilisation of thousands that has caused a mass exodus to the border, Albares reaffirmed that Spain is “aware that there are many people who do not want this war,” and that “Europe has nothing against Russian citizens.”

After the European Union suspended the visa agreement signed with Moscow at the beginning of September, he was keen to make clear that this did not mean Spain was closed to Russians fleeing Putin’s regime. “The decision was made not to block completely… [for] people who are opposing the war, the members of NGOs, the defenders of human rights, the journalists who are risking their lives…”

READ ALSO: Spain sends 200 tonnes of military material to Ukraine

In light of the visa suspension, Spain will return to a system of individual interviews on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s not that there is suddenly an avalanche of Russian citizens and we don’t know who is entering,” Albares said, quelling security fears, “that’s why it’s going to be analysed on a case-by-case basis.

“Those who speak our language, those who reach out to us, those who share our values have to have a place among us,” he added.

As for the illegal referendums the Russians are attempting to undertake in annexed territories, Albares aligned himself with his European colleagues and claimed that the results would not be recognised by Spain or any other EU member state. 

He also confirmed that a new set of economic sanctions is being put together in Brussels, and that “there is no real indication” Putin is considering the use of nuclear weapons or will stray from conventional war methods.

Spaniards should, he added, not be “distressed” about this possibility. 

READ ALSO: How much influence does Russia have over Spain?

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SPANISH POLITICS

Spain’s PM sent booby-trapped letter as more explosives detected

Pedro Sánchez received a booby-trapped letter last week which was "similar" to one which exploded Wednesday at Ukraine's embassy in Madrid, whilst two other explosive packages have been sent to other key locations in Spain.

Spain's PM sent booby-trapped letter as more explosives detected

Security staff carried out a “controlled explosion” of the mailed item, whose “content was similar” to that found in other letters sent to the Ukrainian embassy, an air force base, the defence ministry and a military equipment firm.

The envelope, “containing pyrotechnic material” and addressed to Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, arrived by regular mail on November 24th, the interior ministry said in a statement.

On Wednesday the security officer at Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid lightly injured his hand while opening a letter bomb addressed to the Ukrainian ambassador, prompting Kyiv to boost security at its embassies worldwide.

Spain’s High Court has opened a probe for a possible case of terrorism.

Later in the evening, a second “suspicious postal shipment” was intercepted at the headquarters of military equipment firm Instalaza in the northeastern city of Zaragoza, the interior ministry said.

Experts carried out a controlled explosion of that mailed item as well.

Instalaza makes the grenade launchers that Spain donates to Ukraine.

Earlier Thursday, security forces also detected a “suspect envelope” at an air base in Torrejón de Ardoz outside of Madrid which is regularly used to send weapons donated by Spain to Ukraine.

Police were called to the base “to secure the area and investigators are analysing this envelope” which was addressed to the base’s satellite centre, the interior ministry said.

“Both the characteristics of the envelopes and their content are similar in the four cases,” it said in a statement, adding police had informed the National Court of the four incidents.

A fifth envelope with “explosive” arrived at the defence ministry in Madrid on Thursday morning, a defence ministry source told AFP.

Experts blew up the package at the ministry, the source added.

‘Terrorist methods’

Ukraine’s ambassador to Spain, Serhii Pohoreltsev, appeared to blame Russia for the letter bomb that arrived at the embassy.

“We are well aware of the terrorist methods of the aggressor country,” he said during an interview late Wednesday with Spanish public television.

“Russia’s methods and attacks require us to be ready for any kind of incident, provocation or attack,” he added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba ordered the strengthening of security at all Ukrainian embassies, the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson said Wednesday after the letter bomb went off at the embassy in Madrid.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February in what it calls a “special military operation”, which Kyiv and the West describe as an unprovoked land grab.

In addition to sending arms to help Ukraine, Spain is training Ukrainian troops as part of a European Union programme.

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