Czech government approves sending up to 650 soldiers to Slovakia

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PRAGUE, March 9 (Reuters) - The Czech government approved on Wednesday the dispatch of up to 650 soldiers to neighbouring Slovakia to bolster NATO's eastern flank, the Defence Ministry said.

The deployment, which is planned until June 30, 2023, must be approved by the Czech parliament, where the government commands a strong majority.

NATO has sought to strengthen its presence in eastern member states in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which borders to the west on Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Poland.

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Around 50 of the 650 soldiers will build and run a humanitarian centre for refugees from Ukraine, the ministry said.

Earlier in the day, Slovakia's government approved hosting up to 2,100 foreign troops in a battlegroup including up to 200 from the Netherlands, up to 100 from Poland and Slovenia, up to 400 from the United States and up to 700 from Germany.

The group's equipment is expected to include the Patriot air defence system and possibly also the Sentinel radar system, it said.

The deployment is subject to approval by the Slovak parliament, where the government has a majority as well.

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Reporting by Robert Muller; editing by Mark Heinrich

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