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Russia withdraws its request for warships to refuel in Spain

Russia withdraws its request for warships to refuel in SpainRussia has withdrawn its request for warships to refuel at a Spanish port on their way to bomb Syria amid international outrage.

Spain previously announced it would reviewing its decision to allow a naval fleet headed by the Admiral Kuznetzov aircraft carrier to stop in the North African enclave of Ceuta.

The group, which passed through the English Channel last week, was expected to dock this morning to take on supplies.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the Spanish foreign ministry said Russia had withdrawn the controversial request. The Russian embassy confirmed the move but did not give a reason for the abrupt change.

NATO, the British government and EU politicians voiced their shock at the move just days after Spain signed a European Council statement saying it was “appalled” at the escalating violence in Aleppo and calling on the Syrian government and its Russian allies to stop its “excessive and disproportionate” attacks on civilian areas.

The Russian ships are on their way to the eastern Mediterranean to boost Vladimir Putin’s campaign in support of Bashar al-Assad, loaded with fighter jets, reconnaissance and combat helicopters and cruise missiles.

Asked about Spain’s role in supplying the fleet, Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary-General, said he was “concerned”.

“I have expressed that very clearly about potential use of this battle group to increase Russia’s ability and to be a platform for airstrikes against Syria,” he added.

“I repeat those concerns today and I believe that all NATO allies are aware that this battle group can be used to conduct airstrikes against Aleppo and Syria,” Stoltenberg said.

Spain, a NATO member, regularly allows Russian war ships to stop in its enclave of Ceuta, which borders Morocco at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. A spokesperson for the foreign ministry told El Pais permission was granted on a case-by-case basis depending on the ship in question and possibly security risks.
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