Saturday. 20.04.2024

Spain has sent one of its combat vessels earlier than planned to join a NATO mission in the Black Sea, as tensions remain high between Russia and Ukraine.

The deployment of the Blas de Lezo naval frigate will be brought forward and will take place "in three or four days," Defence Minister Margarita Robles said on Thursday.

The Spanish patrol boat Meteoro has already departed for the Black Sea.

Robles' statement came after she was asked about the Ukraine conflict and Kiev's aim of joining NATO.

Russia has demanded assurances that NATO will not expand further eastwards and will not admit Ukraine.

Meanwhile the presence of 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine's borders has triggered fears that an invasion may be imminent.

'Protect and defend sovereignty'

NATO's position is clear, Robles said. Russia must not "tell any country what to do."

She said NATO would "protect and defend the sovereignty of any country that wants to join," adding that Spain was a "serious partner" of NATO.

She also said that the response to Russian actions must be "purely diplomatic."

"Spain's position, like NATO's, is that the response must be diplomatic and that there must be a de-escalation," she said.

Spain sends frigate to NATO Black Sea exercise earlier than planned