Russian news agency Tass reported it received a statement from Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying Russia had “withdrawn its request” for the ships to enter Ceuta. The Russian Embassy confirmed the announcement.
Russia has withdrawn a request for three warships to dock at the Spanish port of Ceuta for refuelling, following concern among Nato allies.
The Spanish foreign ministry says the stopovers have now been cancelled.
Spain had been coming under pressure from Nato allies not to allow the refuelling of Russian warships bound for Syria.
A battle group has been sailing for the past week from Russia to the Mediterranean.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO‘s secretary general, said Tuesday it is for “each nation to decide” whether to help supply and refuel Russian ships on their way to the eastern Mediterranean.
“As long as the Spanish government hasn’t banned it, it is a commercial matter like any other vessel stopping to take on supplies, even if it concerns military ships,” said Lt. Gen. Evgeny Buzhinsky, who managed Russia’s relationship with NATO as a former head of the international treaty department for the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Nato had earlier expressed concern that the ships could be used to help bomb civilians in Aleppo, but said the final decision on resupply rested with Spain.
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had warned that warships could be used to target civilians in Syria.
“We are concerned and I have expressed that very clearly about the potential use of this battle group to increase Russia’s ability and to be a platform for air strikes against Syria,”
The battleships were expected to pass through the Strait of Gibraltar on Wednesday
Led by Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, the naval group includes a nuclear-powered battle cruiser, two anti-submarine warships and four support vessels, probably escorted by submarines. The battle group carries dozens of fighter bombers and helicopters and is expected to join about 10 other Russian vessels already off the Syrian coast.
The Russian defense minister says this seven-ship flotilla will be sailing to the eastern Mediterranean to launch strikes in Syria signaling that Russia is will be ramping up its operations in Syria shortly, despite calls from the United States and the international community to stop their bombing.
Since launching airstrikes in Syria in support of embattled President Bashar al-Assad, the Russians and Syrian army have been accused of killing tens of thousands of civilians inside Syria. The Russian military conducts a majority of their strikes using unguided “dumb” bombs. Source BBC