PRAGUE (Reuters) – Slovakia is preparing its armed forces to help handle any possible flow of refugees from Ukraine after Russia’s recognition of two separatist regions escalated the crisis, Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said on Tuesday.
NATO said on Tuesday the alliance believed that Russia was still planning a major assault on Ukraine while the European Union agreed new sanctions against Moscow.
Countries in Eastern Europe have been making preparations for potentially hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion.
Slovakia, which borders Ukraine in the east and is both a member of NATO and the European Union, so far has not reported any increased activity at its frontier.
Nad said Slovakia would have enough capacity to deal with any refugee influx and although he said it was still impossible to make any estimates yet, the country would be ready for any developments.
“We are in the process of increasing combat readiness but the primary reason is the potential threat of migration and not the threat of war,” he said after a meeting of Slovakia’s state security council.
Nad said security forces were also seeing more cyber threats and hybrid activity coming from Russia. Slovak President Zuzana Caputova said on Tuesday that cases of disinformation and propaganda from Russia were rising in Slovakia.
Slovakia has backed EU allies in measures like sanctions to try to deter a Russian offensive in Ukraine.
Russia’s parliament approved treaties with two breakaway regions a day after President Vladimir Putin said he was recognising the independence of the enclaves in eastern Ukraine, which adjoin Russia and have been controlled by Russian-backed rebel forces since 2014.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Jason Hovet; Editing by Mark Heinrich)