Pedro Sánchez arrived in Ukraine

Pedro Sánchez arrived in Ukraine

Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez arrived in Ukraine on the eve of the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Sánchez is due to meet with Ukraine’s president Zelenskyy to express Spain’s ongoing support for Ukraine as it resists Russia’s onslaught. It was his second visit to the country since the invasion began, the first taking place in April last year.

“I’m returning to Kyiv a year after the war began. We will remain at the side of Ukraine and its people until peace returns to Europe,” a statement on the Socialist Party (PSOE) leader’s official Twitter page read.

Sánchez on Thursday returned to the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Irpin, which have become synonymous with atrocities carried out by Russian forces in the early stages of the invasion.

Since his last visit to Ukraine, Spain has ramped up its military support for Ukraine.

Sánchez’s latest trip to Ukraine follows soon after visits made by United States president Joe Biden and Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni.

As well as meeting Zelenskyy, Sánchez is due to address Ukraine’s parliament.

Spain will send the first shipment of Leopard tanks to Ukraine

Spain will soon send the first shipment of six Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine and plans to send more German-made armoured vehicles of the same type in the near future, Defence Margarita Robles confirmed.

Speaking before parliament, Robles (PSOE/S&D) said Spain is open to sending more tanks “if necessary and if allied countries (NATO) request it.”

The left-wing coalition has had to face the controversial “Leopard question”.

Unidas Podemos’s Secretary General and Minister for Social Rights, Ione Belarra expressed her party’s opposition to the decision in January. “It is time to lead the diplomatic way“, she said, warning of “unforeseeable” consequences of the shipment of Spanish tanks.

Meanwhile, Spanish Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz (Unidas Podemos) avoided a direct clash with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, although she described the decision as a “qualitative leap” in an “arms position that causes enormous concern in Spanish and European societies”.

The Leopard 2A4 tanks from Spain, which will be integrated into a battalion with tanks from other countries, are now being updated and serviced, so they are fully operational for the battlefield, Robles explained.

She added that Madrid hopes to deliver them to Ukraine by the end of March or the start of April.

At the same time, Robles urged for prudence and discretion to not reveal the exact amount of Spanish offensive military material that Madrid has sent to Ukraine so far.

She explained that Spain is also currently training 55 Ukrainian soldiers, including 40 in the handling of the tanks as crew and 10 in their maintenance.

Spain wants to send the tanks along with the “duly trained” crews, said Robles, adding that before approving the operation, Madrid “needed authorisation from a specific government”, referring to Germany.

Meanwhile, Robles confirmed that Spain would deploy as of April, in a four-month-long operation, a Nasams-type anti-aircraft missile battery in northern Estonia to protect its airspace on NATO’s eastern flank.

Spain has 347 Leopard battle tanks, of which it purchased 108 of the 2A4 model, the oldest currently operational, from Germany in the 1990s. The other 239 are the so-called 2E, a local version assembled in Spain and one of the most modern.

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