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If the situation worsens, Portugal has a plan to withdraw Portuguese citizens that, within hours, can be activated. For now, informed the Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, in an interview with RTP, there were Portuguese who have already left and others who informed that they want to stay in Ukraine. The minister guarantees that on the table is not a NATO military response to a possible Russian aggression against Ukraine.

With the tension intensifying in the last two days in the Donbas region, Ukraine, between the official forces of Ukraine and the separatist forces supported by Russia, the Minister of State and Foreign Affairs wanted to clarify the Portuguese (and NATO) position: “An aggression by Russia on Ukraine does not mean an aggression by Russia on NATO,” he said. However, he added, “NATO defends its border” and therefore a Russian aggression “will trigger an immediate response in economic sanctions never seen before”, he said. “This is not a military response, but an economic one”, he guaranteed.

This is because Ukraine is not part of NATO and, as such, it is not possible to trigger Article 5 of the Atlantic Alliance which says that an offensive against a NATO member is an attack on all remaining members and therefore triggers a collective offensive.

At the Security Conference that is still taking place in Munich NATO leaders hinted that a war in Ukraine is getting closer and closer. Augusto Santos Silva still believes in diplomatic means – “Russia is not under threat from anyone”, he said – especially after the conversations that French President Emmanuel Macron had already today, first with Putin, then with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president. “We are closer, unfortunately, than we were days ago [to a conflict], but it is not irreversible and inevitable. There is still a political window that must be taken advantage of,” he said in the same interview.

The “logical consequence of the worsening of what is happening in Ukraine” is the preparation of the Portuguese Embassy in Kiev in case it is necessary to withdraw Portuguese citizens from the country. Therefore, guaranteed Santos Silva, a “withdrawal plan” has been prepared for weeks that can be activated if there is an interruption of commercial flights to that country.

Meanwhile Joint Military exercise between Russia and Belarus near Belarusian border with Ukraine were due to end today but the Belarusian defence ministry has announced that they will continue. They have been seen as a significant element in the Kremlin’s menacing posture towards its neighbour.