Bratislava, Slovakia – A NATO battlegroup will be set up in Slovakia in response to Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said on Saturday.
The deployment will include 1,200 foreign troops from several NATO countries – including the US and Germany – and a Patriot missile defence system manned by German and Dutch personnel. Slovakia will add 300 of its own troops, according to some reports.
NATO troops heading to Slovakia
Slovakia, which recently signed a defence agreement with the United States, does not currently have any foreign troops stationed on its territory.
NATO had already announced plans to strengthen its military presence in the region after Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine earlier this week.
Another battlegroup led by France could also be formed in Romania.
For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Alliance activated on Friday parts of the NATO Response Force, allowing thousands of additional forces to shore up military presence in countries along the alliance’s eastern front.
The spearhead force was created in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and is intended to be deployed within a matter of days.
“We are now making significant additional defensive deployments of forces to the eastern part of the Alliance,” a NATO statement said. “We will make all deployments necessary to ensure strong and credible deterrence and defense across the Alliance, now and in the future.”
What else is Slovakia doing in response to the invasion of Ukraine?
Slovakia shares a small land border with Ukraine and has taken steps to beef up its defence and deal with the arrival of refugees fleeing the conflict.
During an extraordinary government session on Saturday, Slovak authorities agreed to send up to €11 million in aid to Ukraine, including 10 million liters of fuel, 12,000 pieces of artillery ammunition, 2,4 million liters of aviation fuel and 2 Bozena demining systems.
A state of emergency has been declared as of Saturday linked to the influx of Ukrainian refugees. A temporary camp for refugees has been set up in Humenné near the Slovak-Ukrainian border, and there have been widespread reports of locals coming together to offer help, rides, accommodation, or other types of support to Ukrainians – mostly women and children – entering the country.
While most Ukrainians are seeking safety in Poland, Romania and Moldova, there have also been reports of long queues at border crossings with Slovakia.
Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 people are estimated to have crossed since the beginning of the invasion, and up to 1,500 troops were deployed at the border to help with the flow of refugees.