Russia cancels refueling in Spain after NATO reaction
BRUSSELSRussia on Oct. 26 withdrew its request to refuel a fleet of Russian warships in Spain, amid pressure from NATO, which raised concerns that the ships could be used to ramp up air attacks in Syria.
The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and support vessels have streamed through the North Sea and English Channel in recent days heading to the Mediterranean Sea.
Russia announced earlier this month that the Admiral Kuznetsov, part of its Northern Fleet, would be sent to the eastern Mediterranean to boost its naval forces in the area.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at a meeting of alliance defense ministers in Brussels on Oct. 26, said the deployment raises concerns that air assaults could increase in Syria, notably in the besieged city of Aleppo.
“It’s a decision which has been taken by individual allies whether they provide fueling and supplies to Russian ships,” AFP quoted Stoltenberg as saying in Brussels.
“But this time I have conveyed a very clear message that we are concerned about the potential of this carrier group to increase attacks in Aleppo,” he added. “All allies are aware of our concerns; they share our concerns about Russian airstrikes against Aleppo.”
Britain also weighed in, with U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon saying on Oct. 26 that “we would be extremely concerned if a NATO member should consider assisting a Russian carrier group that might end up bombing Syria.”
The Spanish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Russian Navy ships had been stopping in Spanish ports for years and that requests “are approved case by case, depending on the characteristics of the vessel.”
Spain, a NATO member, regularly allows Russian war ships to stop in Ceuta, which faces the British territory of Gibraltar on Spain’s southern tip. While Ceuta is part of the EU, its NATO status is unclear.
At least 57 Russian navy ships have stopped in Ceuta between 2011 – when Moscow started to regularly use the port facilities there – and August 2015, according to the conservative U.S. think tank Heritage Foundation.