Russian Warship Sails Past Spanish Port Amid Row

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Madrid: A Russian naval tanker has sailed past a Spanish port after pressure was put on Madrid to deny entry to the ship.

The Osipov is part of the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier group, which is en route to the eastern Mediterranean to carry out bombing missions over Syria.

It was believed she could sail into the port of Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the north African coast, to resupply.

This threatened a diplomatic incident after the NATO Secretary General asked the Spanish government to reconsider its position.

Jens Stoltenberg said: “It is for each nation to decide whether these ships can get supplies and re-fuelling in different harbours along the route towards the eastern Mediterranean.

“But, at the same time, we are concerned and I have expressed this very clearly, about the potential use of this battle group to increase Russia’s ability and to be a platform for airstrikes against Syria.”

Maritime tracking maps show the Osipov east of Ceuta and sailing further into the Mediterranean on Wednesday.

A Russian tanker, also part of the carrier group, is still in the Atlantic, close to the Strait of Gibraltar.

But Russia later insisted it never asked for permission to dock in the port of Ceuta, the Interfax news agency reported.

“There had been no requests sent from the Russian Defence Ministry to the Spanish authorities,” Interfax cited the ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying.

Earlier, Russia’s embassy in Madrid said Russia has withdrawn its request to refuel warships in Spain.

It comes after Royal Navy vessels shadowed Russian warships as they passed through the English Channel last week.

Sir Gerald Howarth, a former defence minister, told the Daily Telegraph it would be “wholly inappropriate” for a NATO member to refuel the vessels.

Former Royal Navy chief Lord West said: “There are sanctions against Russia and it’s an extraordinary thing for a NATO ally to do.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “HMG has previously expressed concerns to the Spanish government about its hospitality to the Russian navy when we have concerns about Russia’s military activity.

“We are clear that the UK’s relationship with Russia should not be business as usual.”

Spain’s foreign ministry told the Telegraph requests from the Russian navy were considered on a “case by case basis”.

A spokesman said: “Russian navy vessels have been making calls in Spanish ports for years.”

In Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Theresa May said it was essential that pressure is put on Russia to end bombing missions in Syria and to pursue a political transition in the country.

A spokeswoman for the PM later said: “We have raised concerns with Spain and will continue to monitor the situation.”

The passage of Russian ships through the Channel last week came after Theresa May accused Moscow of being behind “sickening atrocities” in support of Syrian president Bashar al Assad’s regime.

NATO said the prospect of Russia’s only aircraft carrier heading to the region does not “inspire confidence” that it is seeking a political solution to the civil war in Syria, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said last month that its Northern Fleet would be joining a task force in the Mediterranean.

According to the Russian news agency Tass, he told a defence board meeting the plan was to bolster the Mediterranean fleet’s “combat capabilities”.

A statement from the fleet to the agency on 15 October said as well as the Admiral Kuznetzov, the group included a battlecruiser, a destroyer, an anti-submarine ship and support vessels.

Sky News