Ukraine signs security deal with Spain and awaits tanks and air defence missiles

Kyiv warns of Russian forces massing for another attack near eastern Kharkiv region

Ukraine has signed a multibillion-euro security deal with Spain through which Madrid is expected to supply Kyiv with air-defence missiles, tanks and other arms, amid warnings that Russia was preparing for a new attack on its neighbour’s northern border.

“Spain will provide Ukraine with €1 billion in military assistance this year and €5 billion over three years. Humanitarian aid, economic recovery and reconstruction, support for Ukrainian reforms on the path to EU and Nato membership ... strengthening of sanctions against Russia – all these areas of co-operation are covered in our agreement,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in Madrid.

He met Spain’s King Felipe and prime minister Pedro Sánchez on Monday, as local media reported that Madrid would supply Kyiv with US-made Patriot anti-aircraft missiles, refurbished German-made Leopard tanks and Spanish-made equipment ranging from artillery shells to drones.

Kyiv has grown increasingly frustrated with the refusal of many western states to send air-defence systems to Ukraine, and their stipulation that any arms they do send are not used to strike military targets inside Russia – even troops and armour massing at the border in preparation for an attack on Ukraine.


“The biggest problem we have today is that Russia uses more than 3,000 KABs [guided aerial bombs] each month, targeting only people,” Mr Zelenskiy said in Madrid.

“Those partners who are afraid to give this or that weapon must understand that air defence is defence. It is protection, it is not [for] attacking ... And this is the only way [to protect people].”

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said last Friday that allies should consider lifting restrictions on the use of western-supplied arms, because “to deny Ukraine the possibility of using these weapons against legitimate military targets on Russian territory makes it very hard for them to defend themselves”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday: “Nato is increasing the degree of escalation, Nato is flirting with military rhetoric ... This is the reality we must deal with.”

Mr Zelenskiy’s visit to Spain was postponed earlier this month due to a Russian ground incursion into the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces seized about a dozen abandoned or sparsely inhabited border villages before their advance was stopped.

Fighting continues for the town of Vovchansk, but Mr Zelenskiy has said Ukraine’s troops have regained “combat control” over the border area, from which more than 10,000 people were evacuated this month amid intense Russian shelling.

However, while visiting the city of Kharkiv, which now endures deadly missile and bomb strikes almost every day, Mr Zelenskiy warned at the weekend that “Russia is preparing for offensive actions also 90km northwest from here – they are gathering another group of troops near our border.”

Analysts say Russia wants to stretch Ukraine’s outnumbered and outgunned military and force it to redeploy troops to the northern Kharkiv and Sumy regions, to weaken its defence of the eastern Donetsk province, which is now the Kremlin’s priority.

Russia’s defence ministry claimed on Monday that its troops had taken control of Netailove village in Donetsk region and Ivanivka village in Kharkiv province.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe