MADRID 

A Spanish warship and around 200 sailors set sail for the Black Sea on Saturday to bolster NATO’s presence in the region as tensions run high around the Ukraine border.

The ship was originally set to join the NATO mission in around three weeks, but its departure was accelerated as the crisis between Russia, Ukraine and its allies intensified.

The Spanish frigate will join the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), which already includes Turkish and Italian warships, according to the NATO website.

The group’s role is to provide NATO with immediate operational response capability.

On Friday, Naval Commander Gonzalo Leira Neia told media that the warship is combat-ready and able to rapidly respond to any crisis that may emerge.

It is prepared to stay in the region for more than two months.

Both the Spanish warship and the SNMG2 had previously directed efforts toward combatting piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

This is not Spain’s only recent mobilization to the region.

On Monday, the Spanish patrol vessel Meteoro also set sail for the Black Sea.

Earlier this week, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles also announced that Spain offered to send fighter jets to Bulgaria.

She said Spain was a committed NATO member but hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

These preparations for the conflict, however, are already causing problems at home for Spain’s progressive ruling coalition.

Unidas Podemos, the far-left junior coalition party, has already expressed its firm opposition to the deployments.

“We are heading toward an intractable conflict if we do not focus on decreasing tensions and strategic autonomy to defend our own interests and values,” it said in a statement.

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