Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (PSOE, social democrat) has backtracked on his initial position not to send offensive weapons directly to Ukraine to fight the Russian invaders.
On Wednesday, Sanchez told the lower house of parliament (Congress of Deputies) that there will be direct shipments of Spanish weapons to Ukraine. Until now, the position of the Madrid government was not to send arms directly to Kiev, but to channel the military aid through the European Peace Support Fund.
In a gesture of support for the country under attack, the head of the government said that the weapons would be handed over to the "Ukrainian resistance."
Defense Minister Margarita Robles later detailed that the Spanish military aid will consist of 1,370 anti-tank grenade launchers, 700,000 rifle and machine gun cartridges and light machine guns.
The material will be shipped on Friday aboard two planes bound for Poland, where it will be handed over to the Ukrainian authorities, Robles explained to the Antena 3 television network.
Just two days earlier, in an interview on RTVE, Sánchez ruled out direct shipments of weapons to Ukraine. He said Spain would contribute to the Ukrainian defense only through the European Peace Support Fund, of which Spain is the fourth largest donor. The next day, the government spokesperson, Isabel Rodriguez, insisted on this position.
The European Peace Support Fund is endowed with 500 million euros, of which 450 million are for "offensive material" and 50 for humanitarian aid.
But now the government's position has changed. The prime minister thus wanted to counteract the internal criticism raised by some opposition parliamentary groups, who believe that Madrid is not doing enough to support the Ukrainian government.
"There are groups that question the government's commitment," Sanchez said in parliament, before confirming that "Spain will deliver offensive material to the Ukrainian resistance."
Government sources quoted by RTVE explained that the change in Sanchez's position is motivated by "the search for unity and by the evolution of the conflict itself."
Refusal within the government
These explanations have not managed to silence the internal division. Sanchez also has to deal with the refusal of further involvement in this crisis from within the government.
The general secretary of Podemos (partner party of the Social Democrats in the coalition government) and Minister of Social Rights Ione Belarra criticized Sanchez's announcement.
She said that sending weapons to Ukraine is "contributing to the escalation of the war" and could place the world in a "dangerous" scenario.
To date, Spain has only sent Ukraine just 20 tons of defensive material, not offensive.